VoIP offers Africa a less costly calling option

African nations are increasingly turning to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to bypass expensive conventional telephone systems, with the trend indicated in the International Telecommunication Union's annual report showing that outbound VoIP surged to 2.06 billion minutes last year compared to 1.34 billion minutes in the previous year.

This trend shows the huge need for affordable telecommunication throughout Africa, especially for long-distance calls, Anjeh Nang of Afrotel Communications in Douala, Cameroon, has said.

VoIP calls cost 10 percent of conventional long-distance, according to Nang. However, VoIP is still banned in some countries like Chad, Gambia and Ghana -- among the world's poorest -- where telecommunication regulators want to protect state-run carriers. In some countries, including Cameroon, VoIP is viewed with suspicion for fear that it will leak potential revenue from carriers that had been telecommunication leaders during days of government monopolies.

But Senegal, Zimbabwe and South Africa were pioneers in VoIP, signing deals with ITXC Corp. to handle those calls.

VoIP growth in Africa has been triggered by decay of traditional line telephone systems, leading to a drop in revenue for carriers, which in turn has been aggravated by widespread industry privatization that has pushed mobile telephone use in most African nations.

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