Today we have access to an exciting range of multimedia, conferencing and collaborative tools, to greatly enhance our social and work lives. Yet in spite of the rich possibilities, most real-time communication still takes place over basic, voice-only services of restricted quality, and at relatively high cost. One company's vision is to change this paradigm rapidly and allow all South Africans to participate in rich telephony services at substantially reduced costs.
The current disparity can be seen by imagining islands of copious communication within a sea of basic service. The island example is analogous to an enterprise, which deploys a unified communications solution internally. Other examples are Skype and Google+ Hangouts. Within each island, one can see the status of the person being called, establish ad hoc conferencing, share files and screens, and make video calls. Even basic voice calling can be replaced with the new high-definition voice quality service. Each island represents cutting-edge telephony services.
However, as soon as one connects to someone outside the service, “connecting islands across the sea”, as it were, the service reverts to basic, low-definition voice only. To add insult to injury, these calls also cost more!
XConnect is a company dedicated to driving the widespread use of these 21st century services across all networks and at affordable pricing. To achieve this, it has established Peering Hubs to ensure that lavish services run between independent network operators. Just as SMS took off globally because it worked seamlessly between South African and global mobile operators, so innovational, unified communications will become ubiquitous if they work seamlessly across all networks. Both in the fixed and mobile telephone worlds, global industry standards bodies have recognised this need and have created the industry standards on which XConnect's deployments are based.
The recent partnership of XConnect with the world's largest peering exchange, including 400 operators in 40 countries in Europe, is a big step towards this global dream. Already, countries such as Holland, Korea, the US, UK and Norway have taken the step. Another exciting development is the addition of major new video telephony partners, whose combined vision is 'video telephony on every desktop'. Of all telephony developments globally, video calling is probably the fastest growing.
According to Christopher Geerdts, CEO of XConnect South Africa: “We established a Peering Hub locally two years ago and have been rapidly adding telco operators as customers”. He believes this has improved the quality of basic voice calls locally and internationally, while reducing costs for these operators. “At the same time, video trials commenced last year, and we anticipate major expansion of these services by member operators in the next six months,” he says.
The provision of this Hub puts South Africa on a par with other leading countries in North America, Europe and Asia. “As more telcos join the Hub, the vision of South African users being able to use and enjoy rich communication services from any phone number to any phone number, will turn into reality, and sooner than we think,” says Geerdts.