When selecting a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider, many consumers think it is important to look towards a company that has its own network or interconnects.

This is not necessarily the case, says Mitchell Barker, founder and CEO of WhichVoIP.co.za, a directory Web site containing a comprehensive list of South Africa’s top VoIP providers. “In fact, when it comes to your business telecommunications, it is actually advisable not to keep all of your eggs in one basket.”

Especially in South Africa, it is not good to be too reliant on just one entity, Barker advises. Nationwide, copper-based cables in the telephone and electricity lines are so frequently stolen in some areas that the country’s incumbent telecoms provider, Telkom, refuses to reinstall lines there.

In its 2010/2011 financial report, the provider reported losses – solely as a result of cable theft – of between R165,4-million and R183,5-million, and it is estimated that cable theft costs the country around R5 billion per year – with some claiming that it could be as high as R10-billion.

“But even one billion would still have too much of a negative impact on our country’s economy, its infrastructure and on society as a whole,” Barker says. “Even one hour of downtime on your business’s telecoms means potential revenue lost; and few of us can afford that.”

Unusually for normally sunny and temperate South Africa, adverse weather also knocked the country’s fixed line infrastructure for a six earlier this year, Barker says.

“Gauteng, parts of the Free State, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga endured weeks of torrential downpours and flooding in March, which caused a deluge of problems on Telkom’s networks. Inaccessibility to the stricken areas further hampered and delayed the repairs, since the technicians could not get to many of the sites to fix the problems,” Barker explains.

He says the solution can be found in a versatile VoIP provider such as Centracom.

“It is a VoIP company with a unique value proposition, because although it does not own a network or interconnects, it does have agreements with other VoIP providers such as Vox, Neotel and Nashua Communications to route calls via their networks.”

Barker notes that the benefit of this is twofold. “Not only does it allow Centracom to have flexible rate options, enabling it to offer its clients various package deals; but crucially, it also means that when Telkom, or one of Centracom’s interconnect partners, experience an interruption on their networks, Centracom has the ability to swing its own connection to another provider, with minimal to no downtime for its clients,” Barker says.

“This way it allows its business clients to stay connected and to conduct business at exactly those times when their competitors could be met with no dial tones or Internet connections, thereby giving them a definite leg up.”

Centracom is also expanding its product line to include hosted services. Their cloud telephony model promises to be revolutionary to the South African market, offering functionality such as seamless handover, allowing extension to extension dialling anywhere in the world, and a free smartphone application. Couple this with their 99,9% uptime, and you will never miss that important call.

In conclusion, Barker says that VoIP as a whole is just generally a more flexible telecoms option, since it can be delivered via fixed line or wirelessly.

“It gives you so much more mobility and general freedom over your telecommunications. And in the event that the weather knocks out the lines or they get stolen, a VoIP provider such as Centracom that provides both fixed and wireless options is a reliable alternative to keep your business connected.”