Everybody loves VoIP

As Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) increases globally, the region could be driven to wider usage of the technology.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  June 11, 2008

VoIP is easy to like. Consumers and businesses get an inexpensive way to keep in touch or conduct business, telecom providers get to differentiate themselves based on the value added services they provide and application developers get a new playfield. A perfect win-win situation.

If there was one theme that linked every speaker at the recently held VoIP World Middle East conference (apart from the obvious) it was that nobody could go wrong by adopting VoIP. Bringing together enterprises, ISPs and telecom providers from across the region, the two-day conference served as a platform for discussions on everything from how VoIP can help providers face increasing competition, to the way enterprises can use the technology for better efficiency.

Taking examples from Europe, Australia and the US, these speakers demonstrated how the wider adoption of VoIP and related services is transforming communication for businesses and consumers in these areas of the world.

According to them, for VoIP adoption in the mass market, two conditions need to be true - a free telecom market and a strong set of applications that provide value to the end-user.

During a highly informative panel discussion on the first day of the conference, Rashed Al-Snan, CEO of Etisalcom pointed out how increasing competition in Bahrain is pushing down the costs of international calls. While this has proved to be a huge direct benefit to customers, it has also encouraged service providers to look for value-added services with more enthusiasm in order to maintain their edge in the marketplace and add to their revenues.

However, that level of competition is not yet the case in every country of the Middle East. While the telecom market overall is being liberalised, speakers and attendees agreed that regulators and providers will have to do more in certain sections of the region to encourage market forces to act independently.

As for applications, the Middle East has not even scratched the surface of possibility with communications through internet protocol. This lack is all the more stark when one considers that many countries in more developed markets are adopting IP applications readily, including mobile-based VoIP calls through WiFi networks.

According to Rhonda O'Donnell, CEO of Freshtel Holdings the perception of VoIP as a free-call service has to change and people have to look beyond for application possibilities in order to open mindsets and speed adoption worldwide.

While businesses in the region have taken to VoIP and are implementing the technology in scores, without the important prerequisites of an open telecom market and easily available applications, the Middle East might find itself lagging with regard to VoIP in the consumer sector.

As VoIP adoption increases worldwide, many speakers predicted that Middle East countries will begin to take to the technology soon, though different countries will welcome the prospect in different stages. Much of this initiative for this will be driven by the need to ensure that the Middle East does not fall behind on the world's economic stage, while some of it will be due to increasing demand from businesses and consumers.

One way or the other, the next twelve months promise to be an interesting time in the VoIP market of the Middle East.

3899 days ago

VoIP service is fine IF you have a high speed wide bandwidth connection. With a poor bandwidth connection or congested netowork, VoIP leaves a lot to be desired. Many times I just tell Skype callers to call back on a real phone line. Etisalat should worry about getting the customer a good network connection and let the market take care of the rest.

3906 days ago

"If there was one theme that linked every speaker at the recently held VoIP World Middle East conference (apart from the obvious) it was that nobody could go wrong by adopting VoIP." Guessing the TRA wasn't at that particular conference then...

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