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Large-scale LTE rollout is vital for uptake of cloud services, including cloud PBX

05 February 2015

By Eckart Zollner, Business Development Manager, The Jasco Group


One of the most exciting developments in the cloud services industry is the ability to replace premises-based corporate telephone exchange infrastructure with cloud-based telephone exchange services. Traditionally companies have had to invest in expensive Private Branch Exchange (PBX) equipment and had to employ additional staff to manage and support this technology, which was often out of date before a return on the investment could be realised. For many medium-sized businesses, this has simply not been a cost effective option. The cloud-based PBX addresses this challenge by offering telephone exchange functionality as a service, moving a capital investment to a monthly operational expense.


However, in order for organisations to leverage this technology, it is vital to have access to fast, stable and affordable Internet connectivity. With South Africa’s current last mile challenges, this has proven difficult to effectively achieve in many instances. While Long Term Evolution (LTE) has been heralded as the ideal solution, this technology too has its problems, chiefly its limited deployment and the lack of available spectrum. If LTE is to ‘come to the rescue’ of cloud PBX, large-scale rollout is essential.


Telephony is the heart of communications in the majority of organisations, and the PBX has become the de facto standard for both mid-tier and large enterprise. However, investment into this technology has always been a costly exercise, and with the rapid development of modern communication systems it meant that these investments were often out-dated before the investment could be amortised across a five or 10-year cycle. In addition, the cost of managing and maintaining these systems had to be carried by the organisation. In today’s age, the workforce is a demanding and dynamically changing resource pool, and the configurations of supporting communications infrastructure changes frequently. This makes the premise-based PBX model especially difficult for mid-tier companies with between 50 and 100 employees, who have the need for sophisticated systems, but do not carry the appropriate budgets or adequately staffed IT departments to manage them.


Cloud-based exchange technology offers the ideal solution for this market segment. By providing PBX as a service, mid-tier organisations are empowered to make use of sophisticated functionality on “pay as you use” basis. This means organisations do not need to finance a solution to cater for maximum demand up front. In addition, these solutions are then managed and maintained by the service provider and services are offered on a month-to-month basis. This means that services are dynamic and flexible and can be matched to actual frequently changing requirements with regards to the number of extensions required and the type of services per extension needed. Not only is this a far more cost effective option for mid-tier enterprise, it also ensures that organisations can scale up or down as needed and can leverage the advantages of the latest technology solutions through an affordable managed service.


However, while cloud-based telephony exchange services offer a host of benefits, the successful implementation of such infrastructure requires excellent dedicated communication links with a guaranteed service level and adequate bandwidth. This has typically proven to be a stumbling block in the South African market, as ADSL services are not universally available do not meet these pre-requisites. Dedicated lines are often expensive, associated with long waiting times for installation and prone to failure and theft. In addition, while fibre loops have been installed in many major metropolitan areas, accessing this fibre – the last mile – remains a challenge.


LTE services, delivered over wireless broadband spectrum, are able to rescue this situation. LTE and LTE advanced technology are well suited to provide dedicated fixed-line replacement services at a reduced cost and much shorter deployment times. LTE services are able to offer guaranteed service levels and adequate bandwidth for Cloud-based PBX deployments. Cloud-based PBX services are an attractive business enabler for many mid-sized companies, and LTE connectivity will become increasingly attractive as a last mile solution enabling these solutions.


While LTE offers the ideal connectivity solution for cloud-based infrastructure, one challenge still remains. South Africa has stalled on its move towards digital broadcasting, which means that the frequencies required by operators to increase LTE rollout have not yet been freed up. A few pockets of LTE exist in large cities, but the technology is yet to be implemented on a widespread basis. While operators are gearing their backhaul networks and investing significantly into redundancy, fibre and microwave networks, without available spectrum LTE cannot be rolled out on a large scale. Until this challenge can be effectively addressed, LTE will not be able to provide the required availability for the uptake of cloud services, including cloud-based PBX.