VoIP calling — How it became popular in South Africa

Not so long ago, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calling had a reputation for poor call quality. Advancements in network infrastructure and new technologies have helped it evolve to a point where it is overtaking traditional calling.

VoIP call quality is also expected to improve further as 5G becomes more accessible in South Africa.

According to Euphoria Telecom’s chief technology officer, Nic Laschinger, VoIP call quality has improved significantly over the past decade from a point where it was associated with poor quality to overtaking traditional calling.

“Voice call quality on VoIP and mobile calls in South Africa has progressed to the point where digital calling has largely overtaken analogue channels in both the commercial and residential markets,” Laschinger said.

“We think nothing today of making a WhatsApp voice call, something that even a few years ago would have been buggy and frustrating, for example.”

Laschinger attributes the improvements to better technologies, higher speeds, and lower network latency.

“A combination of all of these has driven improved voice call quality,” he said. “Mostly, this is attributable to better connectivity being available in the broadband landscape.”

Laschinger explained that call quality over Wi-Fi networks is expected to improve further as 5G becomes more accessible in the country.

“More and better quality bandwidth has enabled improved call quality even over WiFi networks. This improvement will continue as 5G rollouts accelerate and fibre completely overtakes its older copper competitors,” he said.

He explained that VoIP telephony providers put a lot of time and development effort into their systems to provide better call quality, which is affected mainly by bandwidth.

Laschinger added that Euphoria Telecom recommends specific minimum speeds to its clients to ensure a quality experience.

Nic Laschinger, chief technology officer at Euphoria Telecom

“This is affected by bandwidth, and we do recommend certain minimum bandwidth speeds as a result, but as far as we can, we ensure our systems provide a quality experience across the board,” he said.

Andrew King, Vox Telecom’s head of voice, visual comms, and gaming, told MyBroadband that the improvement in voice quality over the years could be attributed to advances in two aspects of quality VoIP service delivery — last-mile connectivity and operator network infrastructure.

“Some years back, last-mile connectivity options were limited, and link speeds were insufficient to carry voice dependably,” King said.

“A quality VoIP experience over the last mile is dependent on minimising packet loss, jitter and latency.”

King explained that the exponential growth of fibre availability in South Africa helped address these issues.

He also said that Vox’s customers could prioritise voice traffic over less time-dependent internet traffic with voice-specific quality of service (QoS) configurations available on carrier-grade routers.

“Vox has developed proprietary QoS configurations on both fibre-to-the-home and fibre-to-the-business last miles to prioritise and shield voice and other real-time traffic — such as video calls,” King said.

“This QoS ensures that participants in person-to-person and group calls enjoy professional voice and video call quality, no matter what other traffic is traversing the home or business network.”

He explained that, while last-mile connectivity is critical, a stable core voice network is also required to deliver reliable voice services.

“Core networks designed with a conservative capacity planning approach, and that are redundant from both a routing and power perspective they will typically provide a quality backbone on which to deliver a reliable voice service,” he said.

“With QoS technologies implemented within the voice network, our customer traffic is prioritised over all our local, national and international networks.”

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VoIP calling — How it became popular in South Africa