Digital Africa Summit spotlights VoIP

African countries stand to gain a great deal if they accept voice over IP (VoIP), attendees and speakers at the Digital Africa Summit here said Wednesday.

“You don’t have to work hard, but work smart,” Yaw Osei Amoako, sales director for bandwidth provider ITXC Corp. Africa, told conference participants.

African countries could get around lack of capital and the general turmoil in the industry to develop their telephone infrastructure by leveraging existing architecture to deliver more profitable services, Osei Amoako said.

Whereas capital investment costs associated with circuit-switched voice networks are very high, the incremental costs for adding telephony to Internet connectivity is low or nothing, he said.

Also, recurring costs such as leased lines are high in circuit-switched voice networks compared to Internet telephony, Osei Amoako said. In addition, call completion costs are slowly shrinking in circuit-switched voice networks, in contrast with Internet telephony — where such costs are already low, and further shrinking, he added.

There were like minds at the Summit.

“The total (current) accounting regime is going away,” said Johan Meyer, senior manager of global capacity of Telkom SA Ltd.

South Africa started exploring VoIP 18 months ago. It’s been a year since it started deploying VoIP gateways, and according to officials of Telkom SA, the benefits have been worth it.

“We have seen growth in that environment,” says Wally Beelders, managing executive of international and special markets at Telkom SA. According to company officials, the company generates up to five million minutes a month from VoIP.

“There is a good possibility that we have regained 80 per cent increment and 20 per cent erosion of existing revenue streams,” said Beelders.

South Africa is not alone. Gambia also introduced VoIP a year ago.

“There were a lot of complaints from especially the U.S. about the difficulty to access the Gambia network,” said Dr. Bakary Njie, of Gambia’s Department of State for Communications, Information and Technology, speaking about connectivity to the switched network.

According to Njie, the agency was advised that VoIP would help avoid the connectivity problems.

Adopting VoIP, as a result, has been a good experience and has not resulted in any problems, he said. For example it has enhanced revenue from in coming traffic, he said.

But other African countries have been more guarded.

Ghana’s Ministry of Communication and Technology, for example, is considering a set of recommendations to regulate VoIP when the authorities legalize it, after pressure from prospective VoIP operators.

Digital Africa Summit runs through Friday. More information on the conference can be found at