Posted: 30 Apr 2019 12:00 AM PDT
WifiCall is a VoIP—or Voice over Internet Protocol—subscription service that allows unlimited calls to any phone number, even if that number isn't registered on WifiCall's network.
Tizeti will offer the product in Nigeria for now, with plans to open it up to phone numbers outside Africa's most populous nation and largest economy in 2020.
WifiCall was influenced by popularity of WiFi enabled voice services such WhatsApp, in Africa, and the continent's improving digital and mobile profile.
With its new VoIP product, Tizeti looks to contend with the likes of Skype, WhatsApp, and major telcos.
"On the low end we're competing with the mobile providers. WifiCall gives you a real number and it's cheaper. But we're also offering enterprise options you would not get with a mobile connection or even WhatsApp," Tizeti co-founder and CEO Kendall Ananyi told TechCrunch.
In addition to individual users, businesses and startups can use WifiCall for internal communications or open it up to developers to customize APIs for white-label, customer applications.
WifiCall is available online or for download for free under the "Basic" package. The entry level commercial "Business Unlimited Pro" package—that offers up to 10 users, call recording, and call analytics—goes for ₦15,000, or around $35 a month.
Nigerian trucking logistic startup Kobo360 is already is a client. Ananyi sees prospective market segments for WifiCall as startups, educational institutions, hotels, gated communities, and "regular users anywhere they have tower coverage," he said.
That last group ties into Tizeti's core business, which is building solar powered towers that offer WiFi service packages and hotspots in and around Lagos and Ogun State, Nigeria. Since its launch from Y Combinator's winter 2017 batch, the company has installed over 12,000 public WiFi hotspots in Nigeria with 500,000 users. The startup packages internet services drawing on partnerships with West African broadband provider MainOne and Facebook's Express Wi-Fi
Tizeti raised a $3 million Series A round in 2018, led by 4DX Ventures, and has $5.1 million in investment from firms including Golden Palm Investments, YC, and Social Investments.
4DX Ventures co-founder Walter Baddoo sees Tizeti's voice calling as a strategic extension of its connectivity business (noting WifiCall can be used with any IP).
"The core of the company's mission is to bring down the cost of connectivity on the continent by leveraging mobile internet and data networks, WifiCall is a step in that direction" Baddoo told TechCrunch. "Africa is going to leapfrog a lot of the traditional call infrastructure…and WiFi calling…is giving individuals, small-businesses, and large businesses one-stop for much cheaper data-service alongside voice."
Though Sub-Saharan Africa still stands last in most global rankings for smartphone adoption (33 percent) and internet penetration (35 percent), the continent continues to register among the fastest growth in the world for both.
Mobile providers in Nigeria—such as MTN and Glo—are shifting customers from buying anonymous data-bundles to registered sim cards and subscription services. WiFi voice services are also commonly used across the continent for calls. Per We Are Social's 2018 Digital Report, WhatsApp is the most downloaded messenger app across Africa.
On its internet service business, Tizeti has already expanded to Ghana with a consumer facing brand, Wifi-Africa, and looks to offer WifiCall there as soon as it gains regulatory approval—something in process, according to CEO Kendall Ananyi.
The startup is building an LTE network, to compliment its IP network, and plans to expand further into Nigeria with 5G offerings in the near future, according to Ananyi.
Tizeti also plans to open up its WifiCall product to phone numbers outside of Nigeria starting in 2020. "The way Africa skipped landlines and went straight to mobile, this is us saying the next level for our voice communications is to move toward voice IP networks," Ananyi said.
Posted: 23 Apr 2019 12:00 AM PDT
The way people use home phone services is changing and many of us will eventually end up replacing our old analogue voice service with a Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) alternative, which uses your broadband ISPs internet connection to make calls. But how do you set it up and move (port) your number? We explain.
Firstly, a little context is required. According to Ofcom, during 2012 UK people made a total of 103 billion minutes of landline calls and this has since fallen to just 54 billion in 2017 (here). Much of this change, which has had a negative impact on fixed line call revenues, is due to consumers making greater use of Mobile phones, internet messaging (Whatsapp, Facebook etc.) and VoIP services.
On top of that the roll-out of Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP / FTTH) based ultrafast broadband networks across the United Kingdom will eventually result in the retirement of old copper phone lines, which for many decades have been used to carry analogue phone (voice) signals (PSTN / POTS).
As a result of all this many operators around the world are now in the process of switching to a broadband-by-default approach. In other words, in the future you will only buy a new fixed line for broadband and the voice service will become optional (i.e. supplied via VoIP over an internet connection).
Aside from the fact that fixed lines will all inevitably adopt an all-IP network approach (as above), there are also plenty of other reasons for why you might want to use VoIP. The biggest one is cost because the price of making a call over an internet connection tends to be significantly cheaper than via a traditional fixed line or even mobile plan, particularly if you're contacting somebody in a different country.
For example, the standard charges for calling Pakistan from a normal UK landline or mobile can vary between around £1 to £2 per minute (less with special discounts). By comparison the same call over a VoIP network may only cost you around 10-12 pence per minute and it could even be free if the end-user is using the same VoIP platform as you are (VoIP to VoIP calls on the same platform are usually free).
A good VoIP platform will also give you a wide selection of different ways to access their network. For example, you may be able to install special Software (Apps) on your Smartphone and Laptop, or you could even make VoIP calls over your old analogue phone handset (requires SIP details – see further below for details). In short, you can use your VoIP phone number almost anywhere there's an internet connection.
The other reason is that many VoIP platforms will throw in a lot of useful features for no extra cost, which might otherwise attract a cost on an old copper landline. A good provider will thus give you access to things like Caller Display, VoiceMail, Call Divert, International Call Barring, Anonymous Call Blocking and much more.
However for home broadband users the best advantages is that you'll no longer need to worry about the inevitable admin hassle of having to tell everybody your new phone number, which often occurs when swapping between certain fixed line networks or during house moves into a different telephone exchange area. By porting your home number to VoIP you can keep it separate from all that.
Finally, most VoIP providers won't lock you in to a long contract term (standard 30 day contracts are much more common).
The Confusing State of VoIP
The concept of VoIP is easy to understand. Sadly the market and terminology that exists around it, which is filled to the brim with a plethora of sometimes wildly different choices, can easily create confusion. As if to make matters worse, the process of moving an existing home phone number to VoIP isn't well understood by ordinary users and can even vary, depending upon the network platforms involved.
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