2006-11-16

TelFree - new SA VOIP operator launches

VOIP service provider TelFree is marketing a broadband telephony product in South Africa with a local number and interconnectivity agreements with other local telcos. This is something of a first in South Africa but before I put down my R39/month (which is what I recall the price is for their dial-in number), let me remark that

  • I tried to call the TelFree VOIP customer service number +27-87-750-0097 from Skype, Telkom and Vodacom - and could not get through at all ("invalid number" etc.);

  • TelFree's stated aim of making "fixed-line and cellphone calls will cost an average of 15% to 35% less than existing Telkom rates" is very unambitious and their advertised rates are far higher than that of SkypeOut;

  • TelFree is in fact listing several Telkom numbers on its contact page which makes one wonder how much faith they have in their own product.


I, for one, support every effort to use VOIP to break the stranglehold that Telkom and its spawn have on the South African consumer and I would actually perhaps like to have a South African dial-in number (for my Ouma to call me on when I am abroad) but it should be inexpensive and it should work. Will TelFree be able to provide this service, as advertised?

10 opmerkings:

Anoniem het gesê...

I have tried to phone my new 087 number but I am getting a invalid number message from MTN. The next question is: Would it be possible to use the service in Ubuntu Linux?

Petrus Potgieter het gesê...

I got that invalid message as well from Vodacom. As I suggested in the post - I don't believe that TelFree have an "interconnect" agreement with anybody, contrary to the announcements on the Internet. I sent them a fax on Monday about it but have had no reply. They probably use the (open) SIP protocol, so the Ekiga VOIP should work fine in (almost any) Linux if you set it up right. Their server details can probably be recovered from the Window$ client.

DaveG het gesê...

You have to have a bilateral interconnect with the operator or service provider (if you're on VoIP) that "serves" the caller for a call to an 087 number to work.

I'm afraid I distrust people who enter the market with huge fanfare and brash statements that show they know very little about the market.

You get what you pay for.

But there is space for many in the sun from a VoIP perspective - let them put their money where their mouth is and if they end up giving the likes of Storm and others a good run for our money - good for them.

Petrus Potgieter het gesê...

Dave, thanks for the comment. I agree - plenty of space in the sun in SA for VOIP providers. Due to the disfunctional regulatory environment in SA, however, it is easy as pie to get a US or UK VOIP number to ring at my home in Pretoria (from anywhere in the world) but apparently impossible to get a South African VOIP number to work. Who's "Proudly South African" enough to get ICASA to mandate interconnection agreements?

DaveG het gesê...

Hi Petrus,

They are mandated. We fought like hell in Parliament last year to ensure that Service Providers as well as Network Operators would be guaranteed access to interconnect. Trouble, is no timelines were built into the new Act and the regs have yet to be finalised (among many others!). Those with Significant Market Power will have to interconnect with others, but they can take their own sweet time and push for silly prices.

Telkom initially showed us the finger when we asked this time last year. Then they softened their approach. Now they are moving, but slowly and they are not strong on VoIP resource - we've had to fix Clarent equipment in the UK for them before!

I'm working on a multilateral central peering point idea with Swisttech and Transtel at present - let's see where it goes, it will hopefully speed things up on the interconnect front.

You can pull the "VoIP Interconnect - how do we do this?" .ppt off my blog to get an idea of what I'm chasing.

Petrus Potgieter het gesê...

Dave, thank you - again - for the very interesting comments. Unfortunately, your website http://www.hittingthewire.co.za/ is unreachable on both the MWeb/Saix and IS networks for me. I just read that VOXTelecom are supposed to have an interconnect agreement with Telkom. Their rates, however, are very high - roughly five times SkypeOut rates for international calls - and they charge for on-network VOIP connections. Not really disruptive...

Petrus Potgieter het gesê...

The Financial Mail reports that Telkom is now negotiating interconnect fees at a princely R0,28/minute with local VOIP providers. Using SkypeOut to call landlines in SA costs €0,055 (approximately R0,50) per minute which leaves one wondering whether this is not a case of Telkom abusing its monopoly power and whether it is not rather a case for the Competition Tribunal rather than (apparently spineless and lifeless) ICASA.

Anoniem het gesê...

For the critics...have you tried the TelFree service lately? You will find that TelFree is INDEED the only provider in SA with SS7 inbterconnects to ALL the local carriers and a ss7 interconnect in Uk for world-wide termination. The quality of their service is utstanding. I have had the same message on my number only to find that I have not configured my service correctly. It really works!

Anoniem het gesê...

For the Asterisk users that link to the TelFree SIP platform, please make sure you have the correct configuration and context set up. They use G729 as a standard codec. Contact them for the configuration files and they will send it to you via email or get someonbe to help you. I have been helped quite quickly.

PH het gesê...

I have received the following anonymous comment about this posting. Of course my comments are out of date - they were written in 2006. The sender does not, perhaps, quite understand the nature of a blog (or of English orthography).

"Hi i just want to notified you that your remarks is out dated on your website regarding your review on some voip providers, it is time to sharpen up your reviews and information you work from. I am living in the Us for a long period now and never had any problems using Telfree Voip service and products all i can say is that the quality,cost and service using this great provider like Telfree got me connected with no problems what so ever, so please get your facts inline regarding their service and quality and for heaven sakes please update your remarks or delete your self from the net."