Stable VOIP over WiFi starts with quality installation
The freedom and mobility offered to consumers on the go are qualities that WiFi and VOIP have in common, says Mitchell Barker, founder and CEO of WhichVoIP.co.za.
The Internet: it has become an essential tool for productivity, learning, entertainment and even - for many - socialising. People cannot bear to be disconnected from it even for a moment. Even air travel, which used to offer a respite from work and e-mail, does not allow for any escape anymore, with approximately 40% of airlines in the US now reportedly offering passengers some WiFi. In fact, research firm IHS predicts the number of commercial airlines worldwide boasting WiFi or cellphone service - or both - will triple, soaring from about 4 000 currently to 14 000 in the next decade.
The constant demand for wireless networks on the ground is taking off in new directions as well - towards the virtual cloud. According to new research released by global provider of IT, telecommunications and market intelligence information, International Data Corporation (IDC), revenue from cloud-managed infrastructure and managed services for WiFi around the world will reach $653 million this year, and increase to $2.5 billion by 2018.
Mitchell Barker, founder and CEO of WhichVoIP.co.za, a directory Web site containing a comprehensive list of South Africa's top voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) providers, is not in the least bit surprised by these statistics. "The demand for WiFi has grown, thanks to the proliferation of WiFi-enabled mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets, and also because workers are becoming increasingly mobile as more of them telecommute and work on the road. They need to be connected while on the go, which is why it is becoming so important for airlines to offer in-flight WiFi as a service."
He points out that this freedom and mobility offered to consumers are qualities that WiFi and VOIP have in common, which is why the VOIP market is also still growing worldwide. "VOIP is not a novelty anymore. In fact, in many parts of the world, it has become a mainstream means of business telecommunications," Barker says.
Information gathered by market research firm Infonetics Research firm substantiates this. The firm revealed in its 2014 VOIP and Unified Communications (UC) Services and Subscribers report that the global business and residential VOIP services market grew 8% in 2013 from 2012, to $68 billion, and forecasts that VOIP services revenue will reach $88 billion by 2018.
Barker says voWiFi (voice over WiFi) is also becoming more of a reality with cellular operators around the world facing stark competition from over-the-top (OTT) or value-added service and mobile messaging providers offering such apps and services to customers. "In the Netherlands, a local Liberty Global subsidiary called UPC Netherlands, and Ziggo, the largest Dutch cable company, are offering free downloadable apps to use for WiFi voice calls. While the two companies have not merged, many are speculating it is a joint attempt by them to topple KPN, the country's incumbent telecommunications company," Barker says. "And earlier this year, Facebook announced that it was acquiring popular mobile messaging app WhatsApp on the same day that one of the app's founders announced plans to launch a voice calling service, which was no coincidence."
To those who think WiFi technology cannot provide enough bandwidth to handle quality voice calls, Barker offers reassuring news. "One of the providers WhichVoip.co.za is proud to represent is Comsol Wireless Solutions, a company specialising in building and providing customised terrestrial wireless access infrastructure for companies, government entities and parastatals of all sizes, across all sectors and across all distances - even internationally. Darren Morgan, the Chief Operations Officer at Comsol Wireless, has recently told the media that if vanilla-flavoured microwave platforms are capable of delivering speeds of up to 2Gbps, then newer, exotic platforms such as E-Band, with its very high frequency range, will achieve more than that over short distances. And the faster speeds you achieve over WiFi, the more stable your VOIP/voWiFi will be."
According to a statement issued by Comsol, quality WiFi begins with quality equipment and companies should keep an eye out for providers that try to fleece them by using sub-par antennas in an attempt to keep installation costs down. "Believe it or not, not all antennas are created equal," Barker explains. "Comsol advises WiFi customers to keep an eye out for the following details: the size of the antenna, the quality of the construction, the choice of metal used, corrosion prevention, the bracket, and other characteristics such as focus and radiation patterns. The more stable your pole, the more stable your connection will be.
"Show the provider that you have done your homework by asking the correct questions. A little bit of research will take you a long way towards having a fast, reliable WiFi connection for your business," Barker concludes.