South African VoIP (voice over IP) users can receive calls dialled from overseas, following a transit agreement between VoIP providers and Telkom which sees the prefix +27 87 make its appearance.
Greg Massel, MD of Switch Telecom, comments: "Overseas dialling is a key milestone for VoIP providers because it was the last major technical barrier preventing large scale business and consumer uptake of VoIP services as a complete replacement for fixed line telephony."
Other key barriers to VoIP uptake that have already been overcome include the ministerial determinations of September 2004 and the ability of VoIP operators to interconnect with each other as well as fixed and mobile network operators.
Massel believes that two final hurdles remain to be overcome. The first concerns the ability of VoIP providers to route emergency calls (such as 10111) to the response centre closest to the client. This is complicated by the fact that many VoIP services are not limited to a single physical location.
The second is for VoIP operators to be allowed to provide geographic services to customers using geographic number ranges in addition to the non-geographic services currently being provided on the 087 number range.
For example, VANS should be able to issue 087 numbers to customers in any part of the country while also being able to issue 012 numbers to customers in Pretoria and 011 numbers to customers in Johannesburg, as Telkom and Neotel are able to do.
"There is no legal basis for restricting any ECS licensee from providing either geographic or non-geographic services and it's just a matter of time before key industry players come to their senses," says Massel, adding that "true competition requires that a client be able to replace their Telkom lines with service from the operator of their choice without having to change their existing telephone number."
Switch Telecom operates an advanced VoIP & switched network and is one of the many local VoIP operators whose 087 numbers can now be called from overseas.