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Embrace VoIP as an Enabling Technology for the Benefit of All Africans

22 April, 2013
ICT Africa Writer
April 22, 2013

It took quite a long time for many regulators in Africa to deregulate Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The main concern over VoIP has been that it robes the incumbent telecommunication operators of the much needed revenues.

Even as VoIP is being accepted in Africa, some regulators are still pushing back. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) of Gambia, for example, has just announced a ban on the commercial usage of local and international calling services such as Viber and Skype at internet cafes.

In a press release, PURA had this to say; ‘The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) wishes to inform the general public that it has come to its notice that there are companies and/or individuals operating through Internet Cafes and offering Dating Services and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services as a commercially available service to the public in The Gambia. Therefore, all are hereby informed that such practices are not authorised”

Perhaps the problem is that most people understand VoIP only as a computer to computer voice communication over such networks as Skype. I think it is high time African operators took advantage of the technology, deploy their own VoIP networks and bring down the cost of voice communications.

It has just come to our notice that a relatively new entrant into the Zimbabwean ICT industry, Aquiva Wireless, is deploying a VoIP network in Zimbabwe. To access the VoIP network one typically has to have a broadband network and an Analogue Telephone Adapter (ATA) – a device that connects your regular analogue phone to your broadband MODEM or router. Because Aquiva wireless has interconnection agreements with other telecommunication companies in Zimbabwe, your call can be routed to any destination of your choice in the country.

By supplying ATAs to Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, Aquiva Wireless will enable Zimbabweans anywhere in the world, with a broadband connection, to call home at the fraction of the cost. The ATAs are configured with a virtual Zimbabwean number, making the call over the ATA appear like a local Zimbabwean call.

In South Africa where the Zimbabwean population is rumoured to be over 1 million, Aquiva Wireless has partnered with a local Electronic Communication Network Service (ECNS) licensee, JC Broadband, to offer VoIP services.

It is only when operators embrace new technologies, rather than fight them, that Africans will reap the most benefit out of ICT Technologies. Rather than being viewed as a disruptive technology, VoIP should be regarded as an enabling technology for the benefit of operators and consumers alike.


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