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Broadband myths busted

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Most South African Internet users are making far more modest use of the Internet than they think and many are buying packages that are an overkill for their needs. That’s the word from TIM WALTER, general manager for product and marketing at Nashua Mobile.

He says that when you are choosing a broadband solution, you should opt for one that matches your lifestyle and that can be scaled up as you make use of more online services.

Says Walter: “We all welcomed the arrival of uncapped ADSL in South Africa, yet the reality is that only a handful of users crunch their way through multiple gigabytes of data a month. Many users on uncapped or large cap packages are overspending on bandwidth that they don’t use.””

Walter says that according to internal research conducted by Nashua Mobile 53% of 3G/HSDPA subscribers use less than 250MB of data a month and that 71% of 1GB Capped ADSL users never hit their cap.

“”The truth is that the average user is primarily using the Internet for email, social networking and basic Internet access, rather than for video streaming, big media downloads and online gaming,”” says Walter. “”If you’re making use of only basic Internet services, you might not need to buy a more expensive uncapped package.””

Walter cautions, however, that data consumption is starting to rise in South Africa as access speeds improve, more content and applications become available, and cheaper access devices reach the market. When more rich content services – in the vein of Hulu or iTunes – arrive, growth in bandwidth consumption will skyrocket.

“”If your needs today are modest, they might not be so in the future. That means you should not get locked into an inflexible contract that doesn’t allow you to easily ramp up your bandwidth when you want to,”” continues Walter.

According to Walter there are five key questions to ask that to guide your broadband decision-making:

Will you be travelling with your Internet connection?

If you want Internet access wherever you are and frequently travel in more remote areas with little Wi-Fi hotspot coverage, a cellular connection might match your needs better than an ADSL line. Alternatively, if you’re going to be accessing the Internet from hotels and airports a lot of the time, supplementing your home ADSL line with a Wi-Fi subscription might be sufficient.

Who will be using the Internet access?

The more users you have accessing the Internet from your account, the more data you will need. If you have children and teenagers in your home, they will probably need more bandwidth than you do. If you have more than one user accessing the Internet at a time in your household, it may be worth investing in a higher-speed connection.

What do you plan to do with your Internet connection?

If you’re using it for Internet and email, then an entry-level ADSL line or a 3G/HSDPA solution from one of the cellular providers will do the trick. However, if you’re planning to a download a lot of content, you should investigate an uncapped ADSL solution. If you are interested in online gaming or media streaming, you need a decent cap size and a fast line making ADSL the best option for you.

Where will you be accessing the Internet from?

Your location may eliminate many options – there may be no ADSL DSLAMS available in your area or no iBurst and Neotel coverage in your area. Check with an independent service provider whether your network of choice is available in your area and what the alternatives are if it isn’t.

How much is your monthly budget for Internet access?

There are options available ranging in cost from less than R150 for access and bandwidth up to R1000 or more for a 4Mbps or 8Mbps ADSL line and an uncapped account. Says Walter: “”Making the right broadband decision is complicated by the fact that pricing structures and fair usage policies are not always transparent in the South African Internet industry.

“”We believe that broadband providers could be doing a better good of communicating the strengths of their products to the market. However on the upside, users have a choice of wide range of quality products to select from today,”” concludes Walter.

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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