Late last month, ICASA formally announced the implementation of fixed-line number portability in South Africa, including single number porting and not blocks of 1,000 and 10,000 as was previously the case. This announcement means that South Africans have the freedom of choice when it comes to fixed-line communications.
‚This is a fantastic move for South Africa’s telecommunications industry and really does make good inroads into our deregulation roadmap,‚ says Wayne Speechly, General Manager for Voice Solutions at Internet Solutions (IS). Now, both businesses and consumers are able to port their existing fixed line number range to one of the many providers in the market ‚ allowing South Africans further freedom of choice in fixed-line telecommunications. ‚In future, Telkom does not need to play any role in terminating inbound calls for organisations, and thus there is no need to have any PSTN infrastructure installed into the incumbent operator as both inbound and outbound calls can be facilitated through an alternative provider. That is where the value proposition of alternative voice providers like Internet Solutions really starts to match up,‚ says Speechly.
The challenge comes in with the infrastructure requirement necessary to provide the same level of service that Telkom currently provides to the market and Speechly warns that these must be addressed upfront to prevent significant challenges later. ‚Don’t be hasty in migrating to any VoIP provider who happens to be vocal in the market around their ability to port numbers to their infrastructure. There are many considerations that need to be assessed when making a decision, and by and large many of the VoIP providers will only disappoint in the short to medium term,‚ says Speechly.
Some of the complexities raised include the required capacity to facilitate the inbound calls that would ordinarily come via the PSTN. Many VoIP providers aggregate these inbound calls off a single infrastructure that also carries outbound calls. With inbound call flows now coming via other networks into the respective VoIP provider’s network, there may be inadequate capacity leaving organisation’s external stakeholders unable to reach them. So thorough capacity planning that monitors concurrent calls, maximum calls, and call flow direction needs to be scoped and agreed to upfront. Says Speechly, ‚Fortunately, given IS’ highly redundant and dispersed national network: and the large number of existing clients, we have inherent latent capacity that can facilitate inbound calls on a large scale.‚
Another key consideration is around disaster recovery. Many VoIP providers have a single infrastructure with little or insufficient redundancy. In the event that interconnect links go down, an organisation’s inbound number range will be unreachable. It is imperative that organisations select a provider that can prove adequate and sufficient resiliency and redundancy in their network when pursuing a porting offering to the market. ‚Having the ability to legally port numbers to your network does not mean you have the underlying infrastructure that is going to provide the required level of service. In addition to the capacity consideration, redundancy, resiliency and backbone uptime are of paramount importance,‚ advises Speechly, ‚At this point, given market research, it appears that there are only really two alternative providers with the level of redundancy and capacity to provide a best of breed solution on a sustainable infrastructure, one of them is certainly Internet Solutions.‚
The last consideration is the lure of handsome revenue rebates for inbound minutes, something which can make for an appealing business case. ‚Many of the VoIP providers offer significant rebates on every inbound minute via their infrastructure. Don’t forget that this rebate is paid for by the caller phoning your number, ultimately leading to higher telecommunications charges. In some instances, certain VoIP providers charge as much as calls to the mobile networks, therefore it is important to do your research upfront. End consumers and other businesses need to ensure that they are not incurring unnecessary charges to call your organisation.‚ he adds.
The market will certainly benefit from the announcement of GNP. ‚Internet Solutions has built its network with GNP in mind,‚ says Speechly. ‚We can facilitate a number porting strategy that will allow for all your corporate office number ranges to be migrated in a way that is seamless and risk free, taking into account the management of capacity, redundancy and resiliency. With the IS voice infrastructure having matured over the last 5 years, the addition of GNP as a competition enabler allows us to facilitate this inbound traffic without material impact to our existing process, capacity and planning procedures,‚ he concludes.