ConvergeSA 2014: The Probability of Zero Cost Calls in SA

With interconnect rates coming down and the cost of calls reducing; are we on a long term path to zero cost calling in South Africa?

August 5, 2014

By Andy Moller

With interconnect rates coming down and the cost of calls reducing; are we on a long term path to zero cost calling in South Africa? This is one of the controversial topics to be discussed at SA’s top converged telecommunications conference, ConvergeSA, taking place on the 15th August at the Bytes Conference Centre.

“Zero cost calling will become a reality and is already available through international VoIP on-net services such as Skype and Viber,” says Mark Slingsby, Technical Director at RSAWEB, “Locally, zero cost calling is not far off as many VoIP providers provide free on-net calls and as interconnect costs tumble, call costs will get low enough that operators will build the cost of free calling into data bundles.”

Others however do not agree. “The Fantasy of Zero Cost Calls unfortunately is nothing more than an illusion,” says Director of Saicom Voice Services, Howard Sackstein, “Someone still has to pay for the costs of infrastructure and switching.”

There may be some disagreement around calls reaching zero but fixed and mobile calls rates are coming down across the board. “A likely option would be to see cost of mobile calls that have been radically reduced for consumers on certain contracts and prepaid services expand across all contracts and services,” says CEO and Founder of Euphoria Telecom, George Golding.

It is common knowledge that dropping call rates are a major disruptor to the industry with operators likely to lose a major revenue stream. “We are already using Voice over LTE very effectively for corporate clients and this poses the greatest threat to the Mobile Operators because the costs of data for a VoIP call is substantially less than the cost of a GSM call,” adds Howard Sackstein

Whether zero cost calling is a reality or not, the current disruptive environment in telecoms is likely to see some significant changes in the years ahead. The ConvergeSA conference looks to explore these changes from a regulatory, technology and industry perspective.