Convergence becoming reality
Johannesburg - Nashua Mobile, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reunert Group, on Monday highlighted the increasing convergence of voice and data as well as fixed-line and mobile solutions in SA.
Andy Baker, the CEO, said that customers were increasingly able to buy complete telecommunications solutions from their technology partners, rather than purchasing disparate products from multiple suppliers that they needed to integrate themselves.
"On World Telecommunications Day and Information Society Day [May 17], it is worth celebrating the regulatory changes and technology advances that have finally delivered convergence to the South African market," said Baker.
"We today have a truly competitive market, where consumers and businesses are able to pick and choose from sophisticated and affordable products from a wide selection of providers."
Baker said that the convergence story in SA had unfolded over the course of the past 10 years. Convergence was taking place in the form of voice and data blending on corporate and enterprise networks; the convergence of fixed-line and mobile solutions; and the convergence of a range of applications and services on devices such as tablets and smartphones.
"Though convergence has long been spoken about, the technology only recently started to reach maturity," said Baker. "The extensive investments that network operators have made in high-speed cellular data services, national telecommunications links and international submarine cables have all helped to enable rich converged services," he added.
End-user equipment, including smartphones and tablet computers, have all become cheaper, better and easier to use.
"Voice and data integration in the form of VoIP and corporate IP telephony is already here. Many companies are already experiencing significant cost-savings and business benefits from this technology. About 120 million voice minutes a month are already travelling over VoIP," Baker stated.
According to the company, the big move was towards fixed-mobile convergence. Fixed-mobile convergence meant a set of consistent services through fixed or mobile access to fixed or mobile, public or private networks.
"Think of your iPad with its cellular data package and wi-fi connection," said Baker. "You can access your apps and services from this device using whichever technology is cheapest and most suitable at a specific place or time."
The chief executive noted signs that the fixed-mobile convergence space would explode in the months to come. He cited Telkom and its new cellular division 8ta as being in a good position to put together innovative converged offerings.
"Other players will partner with each other to give customers simple access to a bundle of converged products such as a blend of wi-fi, 3G and fixed-line internet access for mobile workers," the group said.
It forecast that this trend would clear the way for a range of exciting applications, including "one number, one phone" capabilities, where companies could give each employee a single phone and a single number that they would be able to use wherever they were.
"These trends mean that companies need to offer simple and transparent bundles that make it easy for users to access and manage multiple services. Users want to get a single bill from a single provider for all their services and a single point of access for support and services.
"Ultimately, convergence should be all about simplifying a telecommunications environment that has become very complex over the past 15 years," Baker concluded.