Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT


Open source could open doors for VoIP in Africa

19 September 2007 Telecoms, Datacoms, Wireless, IoT

Voice over IP (VoIP) is a growing technology that is driving IP convergence and has much to offer in terms of business value. However, when it comes to home and small business customers, there are still challenges facing the proliferation of VoIP, especially in the South African market. According to Clayton Hayward, CTO of openVOICE, meeting these challenges is difficult using proprietary technology, but with the use of open source solutions, VoIP can be more easily customised to meet specific customer requirements, including affordability.

Voice over IP (VoIP) is a growing technology that is driving IP convergence and has much to offer in terms of business value. However, when it comes to home and small business customers, there are still challenges facing the proliferation of VoIP, especially in the South African market. According to Clayton Hayward, CTO of openVOICE, meeting these challenges is difficult using proprietary technology, but with the use of open source solutions, VoIP can be more easily customised to meet specific customer requirements, including affordability.

Hayward believes that VoIP is an empowering technology for business in Africa. "Africa faces challenges in terms of cable theft or just simply that telephony infrastructure has not been established in many areas, amongst other problems," he says. "While GSM does offer a partial solution to these challenges, it is prohibitively expensive as a day to day business telephony option."

He explains that as wireless technologies, in particular WiMax, become more ubiquitous on the continent, it will be possible for smaller business and home customers to make use of VoIP for their telephony needs. "WiMax is already available in Mozambique and is currently being rolled out in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa," states Hayward. "This is bringing high-speed Internet access to remote areas and providing a good backhaul solution for VoIP."

VoIP is also enjoying deregulation in much of Africa - and Botswana is the most recent country to fully deregulate the technology, as has happened in South Africa. "In five or six year's time we will reach the situation where data networks are ubiquitous enough and other market factors are ready for VoIP to really take off," says Hayward.

But he points out that on the customer end, solutions that fully enable VoIP might still be out of reach. "This is where open source comes into play," explains Hayward. "Using open source software, it is easier to customise solutions for the needs of organisations of any size. It also affords flexibility to innovate. Solutions can be tailored around customer requirements, instead of the other way around."

He says that the numbers speak for themselves, with existing government and big enterprise customers reporting total cost of ownership (TCO) that is 10 to 12 times cheaper for open source solutions. "It makes real business sense to go open source," says Hayward. "But it does require a competent implementation partner."

With customised solutions and the spread of Internet connectivity, VoIP has only just begun to impact on the business landscape. In the coming years it will be a serious force to be reckoned with - and will bring telephony to African businesses where before there was none.

For more information contact Clayton Hayward, openVOICE, +27 (0)11 519 7400, clayton@openvoice.co.za





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