Almost 15 years ago, voice over IP (VoIP) was introduced as the hot new kid on the communications technology block — fresh, shiny and ready to make a splash.
Businesses, and especially IT users, loved the notion of using their existing, paid-for Internet connection to carry voice calls and — at last — to reduce their telecommunications call expenses. Then, several years ago now, voice over LTE (VoLTE) was launched. VoLTE is also VoIP and is exactly what it says: making voice calls over an LTE-protocol IP network.
However, beneath the flash, some serious issues can arise with VoIP, which have left many businesses frustrated, powerless and saddled with large sunken technology costs to pay off. These are caused by some often glossed-over complexities inherent in VoIP such as risky security, poor voice quality and service inconsistency, which at the least necessitate expensive technical setup and management costs.
Here’s why VoIP is not always the best solution:
Simply put, VoIP is completely reliant on the quality, stability and consistency of the underlying Internet connection it runs over. Businesses need to consider this carefully when planning for VoIP, and not overlook the current and future impact of other network devices inevitably involved, such as firewalls, routers and network configurations. Taking shortcuts or inadequate planning in this space can result in calls with jitter, delays, echo and call cut-offs.
This could shape up to be a massive problem for a small business. Most companies rely on calls to find and keep customers — and a call that cuts out or where it is difficult to hear the other party will impact customer relationships and business image.
With VoLTE, which is a best-effort rather than a guaranteed-rate data solution, call quality is also dependent on several additional factors, including data latency, the overall network quality and congestion. In fact, even the weather and topographic conditions can impact negatively on data quality.
It’s a simple fact that if something is connected to the Internet, it is at risk of attack. VoIP fraud is at an all-time high and security breaches can result in toll fraud (fraudulent calls) and even breaches of customer data.
Modern Internet fraud syndicates operate 24/7, scanning the Internet for open or unsecured IP ports. A VoIP or VoLTE port that is not secured will be attacked, and then hackers can make international calls through a foreign-call service provider but on the client’s account, running up astronomical phone bills virtually overnight.
Stable and consistent internet connectivity
VoIP can work extremely well, but generally, an expensive, dedicated data link is needed that has a reliable, high-speed connection. Unfortunately, this luxury is not a reality for most small businesses that run on small IT budgets and need to manage their costs very closely.
Furthermore, customers who are not located in main metropolitan areas or those still using legacy technologies such ADSL, bonded ADSL, Wi-Fi and LTE need to remember that these technologies were not designed to carry voice — and a common issue found on these networks is that they can start off well, but over time they struggle with growing latency. In other words, the more people connect, the less throughput becomes available for everyone, and acceptable voice quality quickly becomes unacceptable.
VoIP is a highly complex technology — it takes specialised equipment and configuration to get it functioning properly. This includes but is not limited to quality of service, firewalls, IP addresses and, as mentioned above, a stable Internet connection.
Often, users in the SME market lack access to the resources needed to make VoIP run smoothly, resulting in a complicated and frustrating experience. Or they manage to get it well balanced and working acceptably, but the minute something more is added to the network, the whole voice service degrades due to the new network configuration.
When a VoIP solution is poorly installed, this will result in serious headaches for small businesses. SMEs often believe they can magnify the savings afforded by VoIP technology by using an under-qualified person to install their office solutions. However, this can lead to more complexities and expenses in the long run, even to the extent of a poorly installed system needing to be rebooted every day!
Unlike landline phone services, VoIP does not have location-based functionality and is unable to communicate location to emergency services. This could prove to be a problem should an accident occur, as emergency responders may be unable to see the business location. The cumbersome option exists to register an address that can be communicated to emergency call centres, but there’s still no guarantee the call will get routed properly.
Too many VoIP providers due to low barriers to entry
There are literally hundreds of VoIP and VoLTE providers and resellers in South Africa that have various options in terms of pricing and features and how their service is delivered. This is because it is possible to start a VoIP business or reseller with little to no capital or expertise. Correctly choosing a reliable service provider can, therefore, be a difficult exercise.
Here are three relevant questions that should be asked before going this route:
- Who will own the VoIP hardware installed?
- What costs are involved, including installations costs, upfront costs for major hardware purchases, and ongoing fees for voice service and data costs?
- What are the customisation needs, both initially and over time?
However, the good news is that there is a simpler and far more cost-effective communication protocol for small businesses!
Luckily, the tried and trusted technology of GSM voice telephony exists to save the day. GSM or Global System for Mobile communication has been available and in consistent use in South Africa since 1993. Despite newer and flashier competitors on the market, GSM voice remains popular precisely because it offers a reliable, predictable service without any of the above-mentioned issues.
Huge Telecom, part of JSE-listed Huge Group, is the biggest provider of GSM fixed-mobile, last-mile solutions in the South African business market with its unique GSM Full-Suite Telephony (FST) service.
FST allows a business to make concurrent inbound and outbound calls to other businesses over GSM mobile networks. It has the same features as “traditional” copper landlines, and like landlines it can be connected directly into a PBX.
FST is ideal for most small businesses that need quick, easy access to reliable voice communication services without the cost, hassle and complexity commonly found in the VoIP industry.
With traditional copper lines in the process of being discontinued, even Telkom is offering GSM as an alternative to copper lines — which only validates Huge Telecom’s efforts in perfecting and investing in GSM technology over the past 25 or so years.
The future of small business communication
Despite newer technologies on the market, GSM is still the best choice for small businesses because of its cost, reliability, security, functionality and the fact that the underlying GSM technology is highly regulated, so quality is guaranteed.
Huge Telecom offers a simple, reliable and innovative GSM solution, guaranteed to help your business communicate effectively. Therefore, if unnecessary voice call challenges plague your business, then get in touch with Huge Telecom today.
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