The arrival of voice over IP and cloud-based telephony undoubtedly started a new era in South African telecoms.
However, the reliance by small companies on ADSL as a link for their voice communications is threatening the uptake of VoIP and putting their business at risk.
Because ADSL is a ‘best-effort’ technology, it is not suitable for business-critical voice communications. Providers quite simply do not have control over the number of subscribers accessing the service, and can therefore offer no guarantees.
And in many areas, as Telkom exchanges become congested or fall into disrepair, the ADSL service becomes unreliable, and hence unusable by business standards.
Way too often, downtime or poor quality voice results in frustration, lost business and a growing belief that VoIP is not ready in South Africa. The truth is, 90% of call quality problems can be attributed to the quality of the connection.
Not good enough
Of course, you may be connected to an upgraded Telkom exchange that isn’t over-contended, making for an acceptable e-mail and Internet experience. But how will you know if your connection is suitable for voice?
Downloading a few megabytes of data in a minute or two may seem like a reasonably good experience, even if the download stopped entirely several times or broke up while downloading – because it would still be usable.
But not so with voice – if this was one-minute conversation you were having, you would be ready to throw the phone against the wall or shout at your service provider (to no avail).
Typical ADSL quality issues
The following quality issues routinely occur with best-effort connections like ADSL:
- Audio fading in and out;
- One-way audio;
- Audio resembling talking under water;
- Jittery voice (constant breaks in the conversation);
- Calls randomly dropping.
Alternatives to ADSL
The point is, South Africa needs an alternative to ADSL if VoIP is going to thrive in the small and medium enterprise (SME) market. The demand for good quality, reliable and reasonably-priced Internet Protocol-based voice connectivity for SMEs is at an all-time high.
Whereas larger businesses and corporates can afford Diginet leased lines, broadlink and fibre connections which deliver perfectly clear voice, they are out of reach for the large majority of SMEs. And even if they could afford it, their overall cost of telephony would end up being significantly higher than using traditional fixed-line telephony, which almost defeats the purpose (but not entirely).
A number of wireless providers have done good work lately to provide quality assurance, thus lifting voice communications on these networks significantly above ADSL.
Various methods are at play, including Quality of Service (QoS) and virtual private networks (VPN), ensuring an unencumbered connection and minimal interference – the latter being the single biggest cause of degraded quality on wireless data links.
These types of connections will work for SMEs as well as property developers and business parks, providing a central point of voice connectivity that can be resold to tenants.
Keep a lookout for wireless and other affordable options that offer a bit more than ADSL. It can make all the difference to your business.