Ever-improving broadband Internet access means internet-based voice services are becoming cheaper, more reliable and easier to manage. It’s no wonder that penetration of South Africa’s traditional fixed line connections has fallen to its lowest level since 1992.
A small business has a variety of options when setting up a voice service, ranging from a simple Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) application to an integrated Private Branch Exchange (PBX):
All about VoIP
Using a variety of devices and software, a business can make and receive phone calls by sending voice data in packets using Internet Protocol, rather than traditional circuit transmissions of the public switched telephone network.
The same medium that sends emails, photos and videos is used to make voice and video calls.
- Easy to set up – A VoIP system only needs an Internet connection, VoIP software and the calling device (such as a VoIP handset on the premises linked to the computer system).
- Cheaper – There are no installation costs, and data prices are falling thanks to new broadband infrastructure (fibre and mobile) coming into the market. Free (and unlimited) broadband is a growing reality in South Africa.
- Less red tape – the Internet in South Africa is still largely unregulated and businesses can install VoIP services without onerous compliance obligations, if a good internet connection is available.
- More choice – services such as Whatsapp Calling, Skype and FaceTime are only a few examples of VoIP services. Developers continue to bring new VoIP software packages onto the market, with the only requirement being a fast and reliable Internet connection.
- Internet-dependent – Businesses with high call and internet traffic volumes may experience network issues if their Internet connection is not fast enough or if the power is out.
- Software issues – If an unstable operating system or VoIP is used to host calls, the quality and reliability is compromised.
All about PBX
Traditional, analogue PBX telephone systems provide physical line-to-line connections. Once dependent on physical hardware that made this a costly option, modern PBX systems host software and data in the cloud but still make use of installed landlines. Consider your PBX system a private telephone exchange in your office, allowing internal and external calls.
Related: Beware VoIP Hacking
- Voice quality – Outside of urban centres where it is easy to obtain a high bandwidth Internet connection, it is possible that a PBX system will deliver better voice quality than VOIP.
- Cuts costs – A PBX system can work out cheaper than subscribing for multiple connections with a traditional fixed line operator. In other words, you don’t need 10 telephone numbers for 10 employees. Cloud-based options mean that less hardware is necessary than before.
- More complex – A good PBX system must be installed by an outside service provider, but this is still cheaper (and often faster) than a traditional fixed line service.
- Scale – Rapid business growth may require additional equipment to supplement an existing PBX system.
Whatever the chosen solution, it should be considered not just with the company’s immediate needs in mind, but with a view for future growth.