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Dear Mobile Networks: It's over

Dear Mobile Network Operators,

This is an open letter to tell you it’s over between us.

I once thought you loved me. I really did. You brought me the future. You placed in my hands a tool that transported me into tomorrow.

The mobile phone was the embodiment of my science fiction dreams come true. It allowed me to talk to anyone from anywhere, as long as I had their number and they were willing to answer my call. You gave me a message service that was faster than a telegram. You even gave me the Internet on the move.

I remember like yesterday the moment, now almost two decades ago, when I sent an email from a laptop computer connected to a newfangled device called a “data card”, which plugged into my cellphone. Somewhere on the N1 highway between Trompsburg and Bloemfontein, the impossible became reality, thanks to your warm embrace of my needs, my devices and my future.

I returned the love, of course, although it appeared to go unnoticed. Do you know you’ve never thanked me for my loyalty? Oh yes, you kept telling me you loved me, especially when it came time to renew my vows every two years.

But something else. You took my affections for granted. You even drastically forced up the amount I had to pay, using something called the interconnect fee, which wasn’t even part of your cost of providing the service.

When you were told to stop making me pay so much, you resisted like a raging tiger. Do you know how much that hurt, after all my years of devotion? You didn’t respect me anymore.

Naturally, I found solace elsewhere. Instant messaging (IM) came calling, seducing me with the offer to send a text message at a fraction of a cent instead of paying close to a rand for an SMS.

Please don’t think I’m a cheap date: it wasn’t just the price. IM allowed me to keep conversations together, add photos, and even send messages composed entirely of smiley faces and hearts. And all the while, your SMS had the same tired look that once had seemed so fresh. I have to be blunt here: while BBM, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger all kept getting better, you didn’t make even the barest effort to look good for me.

Now they offer something even more enticing: voice calls over your data service. I really thought you would be able to live with that, as it keeps me coming back for your expensive data, even while I’m in bed with these cheap surrogates. Instead, you’ve gone running to the Government, asking it to make them behave, just like you tried to persuade it to allow your interconnect abuse.

These services are my new future. They allow me, sometimes, to escape your cruel love. But you begrudge me even that respite. You are declaring to the world, loudly, that you really don’t love me.

And that’s why it’s over between us. You might succeed in chasing away my new loves, but there will be others. The future is arriving faster and faster, and you can’t hold it back. The more you try, the more ways I will find to bypass you. The more you try to keep me chained to your past, the more I will find ways to slip away into the future.

Sincerely,

Your hopelessly devoted customer

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee. This article first appeared in his Signpost column in the Business Times section of the Sunday Times.

 

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Posted in the category: Insight, Technology, Trends

I am a RICA criminal

The RICA law requiring all cellular SIM cards to be registered came into effect on 1 July. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tests the law and confesses to a new crime…

As of yesterday, I am a criminal.

I brazenly walked into a large CNA outlet, stepped up to the cellphone service kiosk, and without any form of identification demanded two starter packs, one with a Vodacom phone number and one with MTN. In full sight of anyone who bothered to look, I took the packs to the cashier and handed over R1,98 to cover the 99c cost of each pack.

It gets worse.

Once I got home, in total secrecy, I slipped the SIM cards from each provider into two old phones, and switched them on. The MTN card worked immediately, and I was able to begin receiving calls without any further ado. The Vodacom card required me to dial 100 to activate it, and I could then start receiving calls on that phone too.

In the above process, I violated the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) about half a dozen times – that I know about. The law came into effect on 1 July this year, even though it had been passed back in 2003. Various impracticalities, mainly relating to the process of identifying cellphone users and SIM card owners, delayed its implementation. Following various amendments, it now criminalises a range of acts of commission and omission that previously were normal everyday practice.



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Posted in the category: Insight, News, Technology

New book unveils the NOHO office

Everyone in business has heard of the SOHO – Small Office Home Office. Now make way for the NOHO – Small Office No Office.

The concept of NOHO – Small Office Home Office is introduced in a new book released today, “The Mobile Office”, by Arthur Goldstuck, technology writer and editor of The Big Change. The book is sub-titled “The essential small business guide to office technology”, and goes beyond the technology to explain how the modern office for both the small business and the travelling executive has changed more radically in the past ten years than in the previous hundred years.

“It’s not just the Internet, not merely the plunging prices of laptop computers, not only the arrival of cellphone banking and mobile e-mail,” says Goldstuck, who heads up the World Wide Worx technology market research organisation.



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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

The real cost of connecting

A new book, “The Mobile Office”, reveals the true cost of connecting a small office or a mobile worker to the Internet – and sounds the death knell for dial-up access in South Africa.

“The Mobile Office”, the latest book by Arthur Goldstuck, technology writer and editor of The Big Change, has for the first time presented a detailed analysis of the cost of Internet access in South Africa. It shows that dial-up access is the most expensive form of Internet connectivity in South Africa.

The belief that dial-up is cheap because it tends to carry the lowest monthly subscription of all forms of Internet subscription is shown to be a myth. While the upfront subscription is usually far cheaper, once the access is actually used, it quickly becomes more expensive.

Arthur Goldstuck and FNB’s Len Pienaar at the media launch of “The Mobile Office” on 20 November

World Wide Worx’s research into mobile technologies in South Africa, under the Mobility project sponsored by First National Bank, provided the initial impulse for the book.



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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

East African operators must get basics right

Competition in one of Africa’s most dynamic markets will allow operators to enjoy East Africa’s growth opportunities if they get the basics right, said participants at East Africa Com in Tanzania.

The mood was upbeat in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last week, where over 450 telecommunications executives gathered for East Africa Com, their annual event in the region. The conference and exhibition brought together the leaders of the region’s stakeholders to discuss the commercial and technology strategies to maximise growth and improve services for users. From the debates that took place over the two days, it was clear that East Africa is one of the continent’s most dynamic markets.

East Africa ComThe message from some of the region’s major operators and investors at a plenary that opened the conference was that growth opportunities can be great in East Africa, for those who know how to grab them.

Most markets in the region experience high GDP growth, and favourable market and regulatory conditions. Host country Tanzania was presented as one of the most attractive of them, with 7% GDP growth, stable political conditions, dynamic operators and a low penetration levelwhich leaves room for growth.



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Posted in the category: News, Strategy, Technology

Mobile users reveal their fears

McAfee Inc used the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to announce findings from new research in developed countries that reveals that almost three out of four mobile consumers are concerned about the security of today’s and tomorrow’s mobile services.

Mobile Security reportNo less than 72% of mobile consumers in the USA, United Kingdom and Japan are concerned about the security of today’s and tomorrow’s mobile services, such as mobile multimedia downloads, mobile payments and mobile ticketing.

This was the central finding of the McAfee Mobile Security Report 2008, released at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The report discusses in detail users’ experiences of traditional and emerging mobile services and their awareness and perceptions of mobile security issues.

The following statistics must be viewed in the context of highly developed markets – 2000 respondents were interviewed across three of the world’s leading industrial nations. The relevance therefore declines when applied to developing markets.


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Posted in the category: Insight, Technology, Trends

The Next Big Wallet, courtesy of SA software developer

Fundamo, the South African-based mobile banking software developer, has been chosen to partner Accenture in the world wide rollout of mobile wallets to 700 mobile network operators.

Fundamo, a provider of mobile banking and payment software solutions, has signed a partnership agreement with Accenture, the global management consulting and technology services company, to accelerate the worldwide adoption of mobile wallets.

Aletha LingAccenture will lead the promotion of mobile wallets worldwide in 2008, which will allow Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to deploy, operate and fine tune a Mobile Wallet service, learning how to streamline registration, optimise price points and test partnering relationships with a bank, prior to full scale mobile wallet service deployment. The Accenture Mobile Wallet platform will be presented to 700 Mobile Network Operators early in 2008.

“This partnership combines Accenture’s ability to define and deliver new business opportunities globally, bringing together both communications and financial services markets, with Fundamo’s deep experience and technology development in the mobile payments market,” says Aletha Ling, Head of Business Development at Fundamo. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Economy, News, Technology

Power failures and notebooks:How to extend your working life

South African businesses have become accustomed to country-wide power cuts as Eskom attempts to reduce demand on the national grid. Even a laptop computer is no longer good enough to keep the computer-dependent going. Nadia Hufkie, HP SA’s Country Category Manager for its Personal Systems Group, offers advice on extending your working hours on a notebook computer.

Nadia HufkieWith the proliferation of mobile computing, many businesses are reliant on notebook PCs to conduct their daily work. However, with power cuts occurring at random times, notebook users often find themselves with a battery that dies – bringing work abruptly to a halt.

The current situation is obviously hampering the productivity of South Africa’s mobile workforce. There are, however, simple actions – as well as new innovations – that users can take advantage of to help their batteries last longer and stay productive. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Strategy, Technology

Location, location, location? Wrong, wrong, wrong

In real estate, you will have heard, there are only three rules: location, location and location.

In the emerging industry of mobile commerce, we hear the same argument. Much is made of the potential of location-based services (or LBS, in its inevitable acronymisation). The most profitable models for the delivery of mobile commerce services, say the experts, will be based on where users find themselves. Ergo, the most successful services should be the likes of:
IBM’s vision of LBSTraveller services – business travellers wanting information on the destination where they’ve just arrived;

Entertainment information – users going out to movies or a meal wanting information on what is in the area where they find themselves;

Route information – directions on getting where you want to go from where you are;

Emergency services – alerting rescue, medical or police services on the location of someone in distress (for more examples, See IBM’s vision of LBS).

Aside from the last – which is more usually the province of public authorities rather than of commercial services – the problem with this vision is that much of it doesn’t make sense. Oh yes, it makes perfect sense from a technological perspective. This is what the technology can do, so why shouldn’t it be part of the promise?

Even academics are arguing that mobile commerce is dependent on Location on the one hand, and on Time on the other. In short, where users are, and when they are there.

But it is wrong, wrong, wrong. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Strategy, Technology, Trends

Rise of digital music spells end of record label as we know it

Plummeting CD sales means that the record label as we know it is on the way out. And fast-rising digital sales are not enough to reverse the trend.

His Master’s Voice is fading fastYankee Group announced at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday that two fundamental shifts were driving the music industry – digitisation and direct-to-consumer transactions. As a result, US recording industry revenue has plummeted 25% since peaking at $14.6 billion in 1999. By year-end 2006, it had declined to $11 billion.

In 2008, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, games software will pass the $11-billion mark, confirming that computer games now represent a bigger content market than music.
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Posted in the category: News, Trends

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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