LTE to the rescue of the virtual PBX

February 3rd, 2015, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

A few years ago voice over IP was the rage; every company in the communications business was offering some VoIP service. The problem was that many providers did not do their homework properly which often resulted in a very poor quality of service, giving  VoIP a bad name.  There is now an opportunity with the rollout of long-term evolution (LTE) and fibre for this to change.

Conrad de Wet, Euphoria Telecom: "Only IP PBX can deliver what business needs."

Conrad de Wet, Euphoria Telecom: “Only IP PBX can deliver what business needs.”

The virtual or IP private branch exchange (PBX) was going the same way. According to Conrad de Wet of Euphoria Telecom, the concept of a virtual open source PBX was developed with the US in mind where bandwidth is general not an issue. He said that data and voice over the same network is problematic unless the network is so configured that voice gets preference over data, but generally that is not the case. Data takes all the bandwidth and voice quality suffers.

He said that currently there many physically installed PBXs but the trend is to move away from the traditional boxes which actually offer very limited functionality compared  with a software approach.

The lack of progress and innovation in the PBX industry has been largely caused by the fact that the traditional PBXs run on a proprietary and limited operating system, which has only archaic development tools. On the other hand an IP PBX will leverage the latest operating system featuring almost unlimited functionality which a modern business requires.

There are still many companies reluctant to take their voice services into the cloud and free themselves of the old systems which offer only a few facilities and require a lot of maintenance. Every time something goes wrong, a technician has to be called out.

As confidence in cloud gain’s tracking and VoIP shakes off its poor image, De Wet believes that we will see a big change over to IP PBX in the cloud. The introduction of LTE will also play a big part in moving forward.

Another major step forward was the development of  the  G.729 codec . It is an audio data compression algorithm for voice that compresses digital voice in packets of 20 ms duration. It is officially described as coding of speech at 8 kbps using code-excited liner prediction speech coding (CS-ACELP). Because of its low bandwidth requirements and offering the best sound quality at 8 kbps, G.729  is widely  used in VoIP applications where bandwidth must be conserved without the  loss of voice quality.

While an IP PBX can operate successfully on a stable ASDL line, it is the rapid introduction of LTE that will change the picture. LTE can provide the bandwidth at an affordable cost.

Unfortunately LTE is not being rolled out as fast as most people would like. Current limitation in frequency spectrum available for LTE is a problem. It is hoped the government’s broadband policy will soon move from the talkshop to the release of allocation.

Fibre is another good option. There are several companies rolling out fibre. With more players in the field, the cost to business is likely to come done.

This does not mean that every provider of an IP PBX has his ducks in a row. How good is  the VoIP service and is it able to deliver quality voice services? De Wet believes that when choosing an IP PBX and VoIP provider the following are important questions to be asked:

  • The service provider itself
  • The connectivity to the provider
  • The value the VoIP product adds to your business
  • Your financial relationship with your service provider

Do they have a trusted track record with their current client list? Cross-check their references and ask for a demo. It is too easy to download an open source PBX from the Internet and install it on a single server without backup in a location with frequent power cuts, so you should probably check up on their hosting situation too.

There are many other factors to consider. Do they provide secure http (https) connectivity to your management system and SIP details, use virtual private network for voice communication, and require high-strength passwords and authentication for system access? Is their cloud PBX confined to South African networks only, and do they have multiple firewalls and controlled access to their servers? Do they have the skills to support the technology locally? Many providers use open source or imported solutions without the full set of skills to implement it securely and reliably. A local provider with a local solution can fix problems swiftly when they arise.

Doing it yourself?  It is not a good idea!  But the virtual or IP PBX is the only option for a cost effective PBX that serves the business.