VoIP and Digitisation

Due to the intensifying need for business agility, and companies embracing the cloud and unified communications, the hosted private branch exchange (PBX) market is gaining more traction and consequently, VoIP enabled a more digital-friendly environment. Judging by financial indicators and trend analysis, the global PBX market is expected to top $9 by 2023. One of the reasons for the exponential growth of PBX is that companies have increasingly embraced voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) solutions to improve their competitive advantage in the digital economy. 

Other major motivations for the switch to VoIP are that traditional and legacy PBX systems are expensive, difficult to maintain, and limited in terms of scalability. While the development of VoIP addressed some of these challenges, it still requires an access solution to convert an analogue (PBX) signal to digital (VoIP) signals. 

Affordable bandwidth and other connectivity solutions such as fibre optics were brought about in South Africa through the installation of subaquatic cables. Also, the relaxation of the local regulatory environment allowed more service providers to operate and Telkom is no longer solely responsible for communication services.

Hosted, cloud-based PBX telephony forms the foundation for a digital voice transformation as the need for on-premise hardware is fast being eliminated. Service providers are moving to pay-per-use models for VoIP and PBX solutions tailored to specific business needs.

Convergent innovation 

Since many businesses have started adopting cloud-based solutions, analogue landlines are becoming increasingly outmoded making VoIP a business standard across South Africa. The level of scalability, the dual transfer of data and voice and the clarity of calls render VoIP a valuable communication alternative. These features constitute a significant improvement over the copper wire-based telephony.

In the digital environment, the multifaceted features of VoIP include innovative uses such as fixed-to-mobile convergence hence transforming a mobile phone into a single utilitarian device and software-based telephony, where a laptop could act as a reception, phone, and video conference tool among others. Mobile applications can integrate with hosted PBX solutions and route voice traffic between an office environment and an off-site premise.

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The convergence of different functionalities means that instead of having three devices such as a landline telephone, a laptop for video chat and mobile phone, a person would only need one. From a central office, calls can be routed through a handset on a Hosted PABX platform or seamlessly through a mobile phone using Wi-Fi or GSM network. Applications like Skype for Business, Zoom, and Microsoft teams allow video conference participation and collaboration using mobile data.

Although voice quality on a mobile device may not be comparable to the digital VoIP in an office due to varying Internet speeds, it is a cost-benefit. 

Digital VoIP

Although fibre Internet is much more stable than other options, it is still vulnerable to breakage during construction, possibly leaving companies without any Internet and telephony access until it is repaired. A single fibre line is therefore not the solution to communication needs in a digital world. Microwave links which use completely different technology and are geographically separated could be considered by companies as alternative options proving a ground-based solution (fibre) as well as an aerial one (microwave). In this way, they have the necessary redundancy in the event of a disaster.

Fibre augmented with mobile could be feasible options for smaller companies so that in the event of a fixed line being down, mobile phones and mobile data could be used as back-up connections. Regardless of the option chosen, it is imperative that redundancy is built into systems and a business does not only rely on one method of connectivity. Additionally, the benefits of Cloud for businesses are incalculable, once adopted and relied upon.

More opportunities for cutting costs will emerge with integrated digitisation in the business environment. The real question is whether companies are willing to take the steps to be at the vanguard of innovative practices and establish themselves as visionary market leaders. 


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