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Geographic Number Portability, a revolution in the South African PBX Industry

Posted on May 22 in News-Publicby Press OfficerPrint

Geographic Number Portability, a revolution in the South African PBX Industry

After much pressure onto ICASA from alternative operators, it has been made possible for competitor operators to port a landline number from the incumbent and add it onto their network.

The SME knows that he can now migrate to another Telecom provider and retain the landline number which all his clients have come to know over the past decade he’s been in business.

He had moved his cell number to another provider a few years back, so he could obtain better service or better coverage. He thinks he’s moving his number to another landline service provider for similar reasons, or lower call rates.

However, little does he realise that the step he’s taking is a gigantic one, thrusting him into a world he’s never been before.

Majority of the newly established Telecom Service Providers today use the latest technology in terminating voice calls, commonly known as VOIP. VOIP is a very general term used for carrying a voice packet over a network. For commercially focused deployments, as in this instance, I prefer to label the service offered by larger providers as “Carrier Grade Digital Telephony”.

Now when the client migrate his number to one of these providers, he’s changing his technology from analogue telephony running on PSTN copper lines, to digital telephony, running on IP-based networks such as Fibre or Wireless.

There is much difference in the two.

The older Circuit Switching is the voice stream that sends through a single fixed path, which is determined at call initiation and reserved for the entire duration of the call.

Digital Voice uses Packet Switching. The voice stream is divided into packets that follow different routes to destination, making transport resistant to network failures.

Voice quality is of definite importance in the comparison of the two technologies. The PSTN switching’s voice quality is determined by the quality of the local loop, equipment and transport

path. Delay and jitter are minimized for short paths (i.e. “local” calls).

This is where the new digital entrants will need to compete on. Their network design and stability is what will determine the lead in market share. Voice quality depends on network performance.

Bandwidth, Throughput, Delay, Delay variation including jitter and wander, Packet loss greatly affect voice quality. The network performance can be controlled using QoS protocols.

There is a fine balance to offer a reasonable digital infrastructure, yet keeping the costs low in order to output competitive call rates. If a provider’s call rates are cheap, it is because they have reduced their network costs, and that can only be done by penny-pinching. Cheap is not always the best. Ask them for a 30 day trial or ask their clients for their opinions.

Larger reputable providers will have more stable networks, thus better voice quality, but at a slightly higher price. They would also offer additional services such as Voicemail, Conference Calling, IVR, PBX services etc. In the long run, you will get more value for your money.

Of course it is important to save on call costs, but is it worth sacrificing the output of your business by saving a few cents more? After all you get what you pay for.

The older copper based systems will not offer much features. Advanced features require expensive, proprietary, dedicated hardware. They come at an additional cost to the end user.

The digital provider will have features implemented as software modules. They do not imply any extra cost for the end user except for the service. Features such as receiving voicemail messages in your email inbox, initiating password-protected conference calls on the fly, identifying incoming calls and transferring them to the appropriate user(s), etc. have become very popular in countries whom have entered the Digital Telephony Age a good few years back.

The main reason that makes VoIP such an attractive alternative to traditional telephony is a similar quality level associated with lower call costs.

SME’s would gladly welcome these changes, as now they no longer need their cumbersome and expensive PBX, nor deal with the poor service levels of the incumbent. New companies will benefit the most, as there is no need for initial capital costs or signing long term rental contracts.

Popular PBX features are all available as services from Digital Telephony Service Providers.

Is that something the Incumbents Old infrastructure can offer? Fortunately not!

The conventional copper based PBX is Dead. Long live Digital Telephony!

Mohammad Patel is the Chief Executive Officer of O-Tel Telecom, a South African based Licensed National Telecom Service Provider

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