Just as voice over Internet protocol is in the process of becoming firmly entrenched as a standard approach for “landline” telecommunications, a new frontier is rapidly opening up. The consumerisation of technology has consumers of all kinds carrying with them astoundingly powerful devices which they increasingly expect to do all that their desktop computers do – including VoIP telephony.
That’s according to Riaan Pietersen, CMO at Tele-Enterprise.
“Internationally and locally the trend is certainly towards mobile VoIP within the campus and business park environment and it’s not difficult to see why. The advantages of VoIP include number mobility, for example – with an app on a smartphone, your office number which was once tied to a desk, comes with you wherever you go,” he says.
However, just as VoIP took some time – and appropriate infrastructure – to gather momentum in landline environments, so too is mobile VoIP dependent on the right network equipment.
“The vested interests of traditional network operators inhibited the introduction of VoIP; after all, why would any organisation want to compromise its revenue streams by facilitating cheap calls over the Internet,” notes Pietersen.
“It’s a similar situation with mobile VoIP; the operators of mobile networks have a lot invested in connecting calls over GSM networks. Calls which make use of an IP connection deliver a substantially less costly call for those dialing the number, but that also means a substantially lower revenue for the network operator.”
Jaco Voigt, MD of telecommunications consulting company PerfectWorx says that for mobile VoIP to deliver the quality which is required for effective communication, two essential components are required: suitable campus WiFi networks and suitable access devices.
“The access network is the inhibiting factor, at least in South Africa. The campus WiFi network needs to provide quality transit for mobile VoIP traffic, but current mobile networks in this country cannot or will not fulfill this requirement,” he notes.
As more people become familiar with the advantages of VoIP over WiFi – and with the development of wireless networks in enterprise campus environments, office parks and buildings – mobile VoIP will steadily gain acceptance, continues Pietersen.
“In these environments, enterprise-grade VoIP services provide the ability for people to take their desktop phone with them, improving the convenience and efficiency of communication,” he says.
Move outside of WiFi connectivity, and users switch over to the normal GSM network. “In due course, we might be lucky enough for traditional mobile networks to allow and support mobile VoIP applications, as over time, the mobile networks are bound to improve in capability. Until then, suitable campus WiFi environments allow the users’ mobile VoIP applications to reach further.”
Inasmuch as suitable access devices are concerned, Pietersen says this issue is largely resolved.
“For mobile VoIP to reach critical mass, the device on which the application runs is important. Being creatures of comfort, we’d like it to run on a single mobile device – and indeed, most of us already own a suitable smartphone.”
He confirms that there are many feature rich, well-functioning mobile VoIP applications available for popular handsets from vendors including Apple and those with smartphones based on Android or Windows.
“The main challenge is battery life, particularly if enterprise-grade mobile VoIP applications are being used. Fortunately, manufacturers are aware of the need for better battery technology and are focused on the improvements required for mobile VoIP to reach critical mass.”