Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is an area of information and communication technology (ICT) that remains cloaked in complexity and doubt. Where is the true value? To what extent are businesses enjoying the real benefit? And what lies ahead for the local market?
While there are companies that continue to benefit from this technology, there are businesses that have made substantial capital investments in legacy technology and for whom VoIP does not represent a sensible business move.
Smaller companies, more specifically those with satellite offices, are using VoIP quite successfully.
This is despite the fact that dialing out with this technology from a closed network into the open Telkom network remains an issue, characterised by a legislative minefield of costing criteria and other specifics that have to be fully understood and applied.Skype a challenge
A product such as Skype represents a challenge to the use of VoIP around small applications. Why would one select VoIP in a small business environment when there is a product like Skype available?
Skype, in essence, is VoIP, but it takes place within an uncontrolled, unregulated environment. Bandwidth, while relatively uncluttered at the moment, will become a problem in the not too distant future - specifically in South Africa where the technology exceeds the ability of the local service provider.
Telkom is the only local service provider we have at the moment. This lack of competition and choice is a stumbling block on the road to the country's telecommunication and telephony (incorporating network communication) success.
VoIP offers a closed network between branches and the facility to down out over a secure line which supposedly makes use of dedicated bandwidth.
Skype, on the other hand, is a shared environment on a common bandwidth so it lags in transportability of voice. In addition, the prevalence of video will threaten the establishment of Skype because of bandwidth constraints.Service delivery issues
If the ongoing service delivery issues are anything to go by, then locals should anticipate some degree of difficulty around telephony and telecommunications. This only serves to exacerbate the existing challenge of available skills and expertise hovering over the further adoption of VoIP.
Clearly confusion remains around VoIP and its place in the market, accentuated largely by the quick emergence of technology and related products, as well as bureaucracy around necessary service provision.
The greater issue is not based on technology need and demand exclusively, but incorporates several other fundamental challenges that need to be urgently addressed if the country is to experience the full benefit VoIP.