Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has come of age in South Africa, with local consumers and small businesses able to enjoy a range of competitively priced and mature services from many of the country's ISPs.

That's according to Greg Massel, co-chair of ISPA, who says VoIP providers in South Africa are coming to market with a selection of solutions that can allow consumers and businesses to drive down their telecom bills as well as benefit from advanced functionality not available on traditional PABXs.
VoIP solutions can allow companies to achieve significant cost-savings on outbound voice calls to national, mobile and international numbers, says Massel.
Many VOIP providers are now offering calls to mobile, national and local numbers at lower rates than the incumbents – and these rates are likely to fall even further as a result of regulatory interventions in the interconnect environment.
Though lower voice tariffs are one well-known benefit of VoIP, the technology can also help companies to achieve significant savings on infrastructure and line rental costs, Mr Massel added. With a VoIP solution, a single broadband telephone line could be used to provision several VoIP lines, each with its own telephone number, allowing for dramatic cost-savings.
And rather than needing to enter a long-term lease or buy a traditional PABX that the firm might outgrow in a couple of years, a company can instead opt for a VoIP solution based on affordable, standards-based software and hardware.
"If the company needs to provision more lines, it can usually do so with a cheap and simple upgrade or by buying a few more software licences," says Massel.
"It also becomes a simple matter to move people around within one's office or even to move offices since the number is not tied to a physical location."
Companies can even opt for hosted switchboard solutions that can be rented by the month, rather than needing to invest their precious capex in a PABX solution. What's more VoIP solutions often allow companies to easily and cheaply implement advanced functionality such as voice loggers without expensive additional hardware.
Massel notes that VoIP operators now have access to geographic number ranges – for example, the Cape Town (021), Pretoria (012) and Durban (031) area codes – which means that they no longer need to use the 27 87 prefix for their numbers. As from next year, it is also expected that geographic number portability will come into effect, which means they will be able to change providers and keep their numbers.
"VoIP solutions are flexible, scalable and cost-effective replacements for legacy switched telephony solutions. The variety and affordability of the services available on the market today from ISPA's members is testimony to how a more deregulated and equitable telecom environment promotes choice and lower costs for South Africa's telecom users," Massel says.