Voice will be free by 2019: Andile Ngcaba

Voice services will be free by 2018 or 2019, said Andile Ngcaba, chairman and co-founder of Convergence Partners, during an industry panel on the future of African connectivity, hosted in Johannesburg by Gateway Communications.

“In fact, I don’t know why we pay for it now,” Ngcaba said.

Building on the idea that the conventional business models of incumbent telecommunications operators have to change, Ngcaba asked why we pay for each SMS when e-mail is billed differently.

The whole model still follows the old architecture of interconnect and switching, rather than peering, and needs to change, said Ngcaba.

Ngcaba went on to compare telcos to ice factories when the refrigerator started becoming popular.

Andile Ngcaba
Andile Ngcaba

“People in ‘voice factories’ are like people in ice factories from 200 years ago who think that because they make these big blocks of ice they’re safe,” Ngcaba said.

According to Ngcaba, the world is moving to the “Internet of things” and big data. Voice will be the most insignificant of things, Ngcaba said.

But if carriers will be giving away their most profitable service for free, how will they stay in business?

Stafford Masie, investor, entrepreneur and former head of Google SA, argued that telco business models would need to adapt to make money from transaction enablement.

Masie described the relationship between telecommunications service providers and content providers such as Facebook as a swinging pendulum.

Stafford Masie
Stafford Masie

The problem with providing only content and data services is that it isn’t a good business to be in, Masie said.

He said that this means that the pendulum will move towards the middle, where devices on the edge of the networks are essentially credit cards that make phone calls and use data.

“Being a ‘dumb pipe’ in future will be a cool thing, because you’ll be able to build a toll road on top of the normal road,” Masie said.

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Voice will be free by 2019: Andile Ngcaba