South Africa’s VoIP journey by means of the eyes of Switch Telecom co-founder Gregory Massel

Switch Telecom is nicely generally known as a number one voice-over-IP (VoIP) and cloud PBX supplier, which has formed South Africa’s mounted voice market.

The firm now gives voice companies to 1000’s of customers throughout the nation, however its journey to the highest was not simple.

MyBroadband spoke to co-founder Gregory Massel about his VoIP journey during the last seventeen years.

Switch Telecom’s story dates again to the early 2000s, when Massel had spent a decade within the ISP market.

“After a decade in the Internet Service Provider industry, I wanted a new challenge,” he stated.

“I am an entrepreneur at heart, and, notwithstanding that I’d been working as an employee for many years after selling my first ISP business, I knew that I would start another business when the time was right.”

At the time, VoIP expertise offered a brand new alternative within the telecommunications market.

“VoIP is closely linked to Internet access and IP technologies, which allowed me to leverage my existing contacts, experience and knowledge,” he stated.

“More critically, the timing was right, and the local telecommunication industry needed innovation.”

“After a decade of government’s so-called ‘managed liberalisation’ approach to policy, regulatory conditions were finally progressing to enable real competition.”


Launching a competing service towards a dominant fixed-line voice supplier like Telkom was not simple.

“Establishing reputation was probably the most difficult aspect. It wasn’t just that the business was new and unknown — the technology was also new,” Massel stated.

“Our early competitors were also implementing the technology poorly, which tarnished the reputation of VoIP and caused businesses to be extremely hesitant about adopting it.”

He used to joke that VoIP was a four-letter phrase.

“In the early days, we referred to it strictly as a ‘telecommunications’ business, avoiding reference to ‘VoIP’ insofar as possible,” he stated.

“We had to work extremely hard to persuade prospective clients that the technology, if implemented properly, was inherently reliable.”

Switch Telecom discovered it significantly difficult to enroll company purchasers. It was a lot simpler to interrupt into the house and small enterprise markets.

“Our first corporate clients all had decision-makers who were initially clients in their personal capacities for many months (sometimes years) prior, demonstrating that trust is earned,” he stated.

Incumbent operators — each mounted and cell — additionally did no matter was of their energy to squash competitors and stop new entrants from breaking into the market.

It continues to be a problem, however it’s not an existential risk as a result of there are extra gamers available in the market now, and South Africa has a extra mature regulatory framework.

For most entrepreneurs, there’s a second while you realise the enterprise will likely be profitable.

For Massel, it was when he drove previous a billboard of one among their first enterprise purchasers and recognised the telephone quantity as being from their allocations.

“There was a prominence and permanence about it that provided assurance that we were trusted to deliver on our client’s communications,” he stated.

“It also created a sense of responsibility to continue delivering.”

Thirteen years later, that consumer remains to be with Switch Telecom.

Telkom Call Centre

It is unimaginable to debate the VoIP business with out mentioning Telkom’s stranglehold on the telecoms business within the 2000s.

ISPs had completed wonderful work breaking down Telkom’s monopoly on information companies. However, Telkom nonetheless largely retained a monopoly on voice companies.

Traditional switchboards had been costly items of {hardware}, sometimes financed over three to 5 years and topic to ongoing upkeep contracts.

The prices of voice companies had been extortionate, and companies needed to indebt themselves for years to finance a switchboard.

Switch Telecom’s focus, together with most different new entrants, was on offering reasonably priced telephone calls and altering the switchboard from a major enterprise debt to an incidental price.

After geographic quantity portability was launched, the business witnessed an explosion within the uptake of hosted switchboard companies.

Companies saved a fortune on capital expenditure, and, extra importantly, historically high-end options like interactive voice response, name queues, and name recording grew to become mainstream.

“This shifted the narrative because, by that stage, costs had become so affordable that businesses were no longer worried about reducing or limiting their telecommunications spend,” Massel stated.

“Instead, they were looking at how they could use functionality and features to enhance productivity and whom they could trust to provide the best service.”

Innovation grew to become key to delivering enhanced options, and as hosted companies grew to become mainstream, infrastructure stability, resilience, and wonderful buyer care grew to become very important priorities.

In more moderen years, the power to work effortlessly from the placement of 1’s alternative and use a wide range of mediums has change into paramount.

“While our services were always suited to remote working, we’ve enhanced them further,” Massel stated.

“For example, a WebRTC-based in-browser phone application is now fully integrated with our hosted switchboard service.”

Switch Telecom

The most important change for Switch Telecom was not the brand new options or elevated VoIP uptake. It was what was occurring behind the scenes.

“Every day, we make it our mission to incrementally improve small aspects of our business,” he stated.

They have additionally given a number of thought and care to how they onboard prospects. It contains quoting instruments, buyer care techniques, on-line sign-up procedures, and fraud and credit score vetting.

They have additionally enhanced service activation, automation of {hardware} provisioning, supply and dispatch of {hardware}, technical help, and quantity portability integration.

“If I look back over a decade, I’m amazed at how the business has been transformed. It includes our turnaround times, quality of customer care, and ability to scale to meet demand.”

Switch Telecom is presently scaling up for important future progress, specializing in recruitment and upgrades to its core community infrastructure.

In the long run, they plan to launch extra companies and options round integration and unification of communication companies.

There is a giant deal with the convergence between mounted and cell telephony and integrating these companies with different purposes.

Gregory Massel’s tech and enterprise selections

Which smartphone do you presently use?

Samsung Galaxy A52

Which laptop computer do you presently use?


What Internet connection do you might have at residence?

100 Mbps fibre by way of Afrihost and Openserve

What is one of the best funding you might have ever made?

My finest investments have all the time been people who, other than being financially rewarding, have improved myself or my life. From that perspective, the investments in each my first enterprise and, subsequently, Switch Telecom, positively charge high.

More not too long ago, putting in a hybrid photo voltaic backup energy system was transformative. Beyond being successfully self-funding, the elimination of the stress, frustration and disruption beforehand related to load-shedding made this as a lot an funding in my very own sanity and productiveness as within the worth of my residence.

What is the worst funding you might have ever made?

Pretty a lot each cent I’ve ever entrusted to the financial institution.

What are you presently studying?

Start-up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer

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