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Isn’t a gig enough for me?

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With streaming radio, music, video, Skype calls and movies all available on the Internet, one gig of data just does not cut it these days, writes TIM WYATT-GUNNING, CEO of Web Africa.

Last week my mother told me that a gig a month is more than enough for her. Well of course it is Mum, but you’re not getting the most out of your virtual life.

Trust me, it’s so much easier to manage than your real one. I know you can live quite happily within your 1 gig ration because granny did it during the war, but you’re missing out on a whole new world. Think of your digital camera and the hundreds of shots you delete each time you whip it out at the family gatherings. Now think back to the world of Kodak and film, when you had to go to the shop to get them printed – you very rarely took photos because it cost too much to risk taking a bad one. It’s a similar story with the internet. Start getting creative mum, with an uncapped account: you can do what you like when you like, all for a fixed price. Go mad like our other customers have I forgot to tell you that in the last year alone, on average they’re using three times more data than they did before, so join the crowd and YouTube away! Let me help you to open your virtual eyes which probably work better than your real ones. You’re a few clicks away from re-inventing your history and cancelling your new hip because all you need is a cup of tea and a nice young man to come over and tune in your computer to the Web Africa channel for a wicked trip down to the internet. Stop twitching the curtains to get your gossip and instead click your mouse and ask yourself:

¬∑ Do you want to watch your three grandchildrens’ school plays on your computer screen with your feet up with a G&T or trawl all the way out to Cape Town, Joburg and London? I thought so! (That will cost you around four gigs of data for a two hour play)

¬∑ Do you want to call your darling American daughter-in-law Letitia (still married to your other son Henry, you think) every week for an hour at R80 a shot on Hellkom or would you prefer to press the Skype button on your computer that says “watch Letitia talking for free while she covers for Henry”” (that’s about two gigs per hour)

¬∑ If you could listen to that old Abba record right now by hitting a big button on your computer that says “”listen to Abba record right now””, would you? And if you would, then could you resist the Bing Crosby command key, the Cliff Richard space key and anyone else your children remember hoping not to be airing on the wireless as you picked them up from school (we’re limiting that to three gigs. If you want to throw in Elvis, we’re going uncapped right now)

¬∑ You can’t get Talk Radio on medium wave, can you? It’s all fuzzy because you’re in the basement flat. Wouldn’t you die for a “”listen to Talk Radio as if John Maytham is sitting right next to you”” button on your computer? You can, just hit the http://www.capetalk.co.za/onair/tunein/tunein.asp button. (Every day, three hours a day, we’re looking at another 10 gigs)

¬∑ Because you’re British I know you love a good wait in a queue but honestly, R625 a month on DSTV to be told what, when and where you can watch doesn’t cut it anymore. On the internet, you can watch any epsisode of any series of Murder She Wrote. One entire season for 10 gigs, done and dusted within a day. I know I told you about this in my last email around the future of TV in South Africa, but I doubt you were concentrating.

¬∑ I’m not going to tell you about online lotteries because I bet you my inheritance, if there is one, that you’ve found them already (and with it, another two gigs):

Good for you Mum now you’re downloading, you’re streaming and you ain’t going to stop there because you’ve got the telly on your computer, you’ve got the wireless on your computer, you’ve got the phone on your computer and best of all, you’ve got your entire family on your computer and it’s so much easier to love them that way. Go uncapped Mum, it’s safer than it used to be, and it will make you young again. Guaranteed ‚Ķ. well, more so than your face cream. Our beautiful internet. Early days.

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Web World

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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