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December 21, 2012
Developing Countries Leverage VoIP to Combat Theft

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

This morning I was talking on my cell phone with an enterprising single mother who lives in a shanty town on the outskirts of Cebu City in the Philippines. She sleeps on a mat on the floor and is too poor to live with her son, who stays with grandparents while his mother works.

But this poor Filipina is able to talk with me in the U.S. for free any time she wants because she piggybacks off the WiFi (News - Alert) from a nearby café and leverages a voice-over-IP (VoIP) service that gives her a free U.S. number. She effectively works without a computer or landline by using just a cell phone.

VoIP already brings numerous advantages and opportunities we recognize: lower cost, better call quality, less infrastructure to manage, etc. But there also are opportunities and advantages we still are discovering. Some are emerging in developing countries such as the Philippines and South Africa.

For South Africa and many developing countries, one VoIP advantage is stopping theft.

Yes, theft.

“It may not be the most obvious reason to embrace the benefits offered by VoIP technology,” writes blogger Saul Saresi, “but in South Africa at least, unprecedented rates of telephone line theft are prompting local businesses to turn away from standard telephone lines in favor of Voice Over IP technology.”

Phone (News - Alert) line theft is a real concern for countries such as South Africa, where countless businesses and residential customers are disrupted each month.

“The thefts have now reached epidemic proportions, so much so that businesses who are, or have been, affected by the disruptions caused to their communications are looking to technology to give them a more viable option,” wrote Saresi on his blog. “That option is VoIP.”

The all-digital nature of VoIP enabled enterprising businesses to offer an alternative to theft-prone traditional telecommunications infrastructure.

One of the companies that is leveraging VoIP as a theft-prevention technology is a firm called BitCo. It now offers South African business what it calls “invisible lines.”

Instead of traditional copper-wire phone lines, BitCo offers VoIP-based telephone services and delivers it via radio waves so there isn’t even a data cable to cut. The VoIP service moves among a series of base stations on towers and roof that then relay the transmission to the customer’s office or home.

No wires, no theft.

“There is a lot of intelligence built into our network,” according to Kobas Mathee, the BitCo technical director quoted in the piece by Saresi. “With this we can guarantee uptime and services and thus offer an alternative to traditional landlines, which are often prone to quality problems and prolonged downtime due to cable breakages or theft.”

So whether a single mother in a shanty town or a business owner plagued by theft, some use cases for VoIP are still being discovered. And with technologies such as the new SIP Enable by Patton (News - Alert) and Vitelity—which let businesses easily migrate to VoIP—more interesting use cases are sure to emerge.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Peter Bernstein

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