Hubert Wentzel, divisional director atEOH Consulting, says companies today need better tools to help their people meet the demands of the always on, always connected nature of business. Improved communications is part and parcel of this rapid globalisation.
Bandwidth in its basic form is a commodity which is still expensive in South Africa, Wentzel says. "ISPs and consumers alike are seeking the value-added services of network monitoring, management, e-mail hosting, spam filtering and URL filtering etc, out of their contracts. And, as it is a commodity service, the consumer can easily move from one ISP to the next – hence the ISPs all desperately trying to tie consumers in to value-added services."
Wentzel says converged communications is a hot topic in boardrooms today. Not only does the advent of more converged suppliers make switching and changing a reality, but factors like ever-increasing energy costs make unified telecommunications that much more attractive. The benefits to virtual call centres and telemarketers are also huge. No longer will businesses need massive, stale and expensive call centres – agents can work from anywhere around the globe.
International trends indicate that the majority of businesses across the world are using VoIP in some fashion today, and that the rest are looking at or planning to implement this technology at some point in the next few years.
Given the current prohibitive communications costs, there is still skepticism around the value of VoIP in South Africa, says Wentzel.
"In a first-world country where Internet is freely available and bandwidth is cheap, VoIP is fast becoming the norm. But in South Africa, where Telkom's monopoly keeps the cost of bandwidth high, cost reduction is not the norm when it comes to VoIP.
"Despite this, I do believe that it is inevitable that most South African companies with high telephone costs will go the IP telephony route in the future."