VOIP: where comms is going
VOIP has evolved to become an important component of the overall seamless communications environment, says Wanatel MD Walter Madzonga.
When Voice over IP (VOIP) became widely available in the 1990s, pundits hoped it signalled a brave new alternative to the copper landline. It didn't, says Walter Madzonga, MD at Wanatel. In fact, it proved disappointing at first, as poor call quality and the high cost of bandwidth drove users back to traditional communications.
Times have changed, and VOIP is now widely in use, thanks to vastly improved fixed and mobile networks and technologies and better bandwidth. VOIP is now in use by millions of consumers daily, through applications such as Skype and WhatsApp, and it's making significant inroads into the enterprise too. In fact, we see it as the future of enterprise communications.
At Wanatel, we're seeing growing VOIP uptake among our South African clients for a number of reasons, primarily because it delivers more features and flexibility than traditional systems, including voicemail to e-mail or click to call, and unlike traditional landlines, VOIP extensions can be easily moved around a physical location, and VOIP phones connected to a cloud PBX can be unplugged at the office and plugged into the Internet at another location, making users reachable on the same number anywhere, and giving them access to the same functionality they have at the office. This is crucial for businesses that must always be available to take and make calls - such as emergency services.
It is extremely scalable, allowing one line to serve multiple users quickly and easily; and allows businesses to roll out advanced telephony features to remote branch offices quickly and cost-effectively. For this reason, contact centres are leading adoption in South Africa. VOIP implementations can integrate a combination of on-premises and cloud-based VOIP PBXs to deliver easily configured failover.
The quality of VOIP calls is virtually indistinguishable from those made over copper lines, depending on the available connectivity in the area. With the arrival of undersea cables and terrestrial fibre networks, high quality Internet access is now available to support high quality VOIP calls across much of the country. Those not connected to copper cables or fibre can access VOIP services using microwave links or satellite. These connectivity options means telephony access in isolated areas not served by landline service providers or areas plagued by cable theft. Should an entire office go down, the cloud-based PBX can still be accessed and calls rerouted to cellphones, for example.
Adding to its appeal, VOIP service providers in SA are typically agile and able to respond quickly to customer requests. Should a business opt for hosted VOIP services, they eliminate or reduce their need for on-premises hardware, so reducing the need for maintenance and costly upgrades.
When a business depends on communications for its survival, it is vitally important for it to ensure it is always accessible to partners and customers. VOIP serves as an increasingly important component of a unified communications infrastructure or a basic telecoms accessibility survival plan: where one system fails, VOIP can fill the gap. Where advanced features and functions are needed, VOIP offers the solution. It positions companies to harness myriad Internet of things (IOT) tools.
It also delivers to companies seeking more features from their communications systems than traditional services can offer. VOIP is not necessarily significantly cheaper than other services, nor is it the best fit for all businesses. However, it offers a viable and feature-rich alternative to standard landline or mobile calling for those seeking to ensure seamless always-on telecoms accessibility. Thanks to the flexibility, rich features, and integration potential it offers, VOIP is set to become the primary calling method in future.