Considering market age and the relatively low penetration of broadband infrastructure, there exists a large opportunity for growth.
With authorities expected to introduce regulatory measures such as geographic number portability, carrier preset and local loop unbundling, which will allow users to control costs far more effectively, greater adoption of VoIP services by corporates can be expected.
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"The South African telecommunications market was dogged by high pricing due to a lack of true competition in the industry," says Frost & Sullivan Senior Industry Analyst Lindsey McDonald. "The technology's most compelling feature is that VoIP offers a low cost alternative to traditional fixed line calls. This makes it particularly appealing in the light of the economic meltdown."
In spite of this low-cost advantage though, VoIP technology has not proved to be as reliable as its analogue alternative due to the lack of bandwidth and initial experience in the market. Although VoIP is perceived as a bandwidth hungry technology, this is only the case only in instances where the service provider has not utilized the means to make the technology more efficient. Significant improvements in voice quality are slowly giving VoIP the edge over traditional voice services.
Circumstances such as the concerted network infrastructure roll out of tier-I operators in South Africa and the realization that VoIP services are best offered over access media such as asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) as opposed to WiFi have led to a dramatic increase in the quality of these products. Thus, organizations that rely on high-quality voice communications are now able to consider VoIP as a viable option. Awareness initiatives launched by service providers have begun to pay off, but much needs to be done. Regulatory uncertainties, in particular, are worrying participants.
"It is anticipated that Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) will introduce additional regulatory measures that will govern and impact the VoIP market specifically," says McDonald. "Participants in this space are unsure about the timeframe within which these policies will be implemented, directly impacting their ability to provide services such as number portability and carrier pre-select."
Under-serviced markets also exude potential, but they are long-term prospects that are in the early rungs of the evolutionary ladder, so it will be a while before these synergies can be capitalized upon. For now, service providers are forced to differentiate in terms of the way in which they approach different market segments.
While the financial services sector will most likely adopt the same services as the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) market, the manner in which these are used can differ vastly. Increased workforce mobility is vital, and the operator that brings it to the market in the shortest period of time can expect to register significant gains. Overall, service providers must identify the best areas for the deployment and partner with suitable infrastructure vendors to facilitate business progression.
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South African VoIP Market / M485