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OTT regulation will protect profits, not customers

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The CEO of Cell C, JOSE DOS SANTOS, hits out at MTN and Vodacom for trying to have services like WhatsApp and Facebook regulated in South Africa.

MTN and Vodacom have declared war on consumer interests. The infamous duopoly wants to limit how we use Internet services like WhatsApp – and it has nothing to do with fairness, competition or the future of South Africa. To the contrary, it is all about maintaining their stranglehold on a vital artery feeding our country’s economic and social future.

The two mobile networks have now successfully lobbied Government to investigate potentially regulating Over-The-Top (OTT) services, like WhatsApp. I suppose it was inevitable, given their views of OTT applications, Vodacom, for example, believes: “You have these [OTT] players which are getting huge benefit out of an industry without making any investment” and “Operators need to continue making a return.”

MTN has been less diplomatic.  Former MTN South Africa CEO Ahmad Farroukh was quoted as saying that MTN was not prepared to spend billions of dollars building networks just so that OTT players can get a “free ride”.  His successor, Mteto Nyati agrees.  “You have to regulate them because clearly they’re making a huge amount of revenue on top of the infrastructure that the operators have paid for. Somehow they have to contribute towards the building of this infrastructure”.

Suddenly they are concerned with “levelling the playing fields” – only now when they face competition.

Regulation itself is not necessarily a bad thing and South African telecoms regulation could definitely use a little modernisation. We need to ask serious questions about privacy, consumer rights and infrastructure sharing to reduce costs. But in this case, that is not Vodacom or MTN’s aim. Instead they are hoping to confuse the issue, rather than sticking to clear, reasonable arguments.

Regulation would impose new costs. Costs that will either prompt OTT players to withdraw their services from South Africa or push up prices for the consumer, the very consumer that already pays for the data to use those services.

It is not hard to imagine the motivation of MTN and Vodacom, as both have historically resisted any attempt to “level the playing field” in the mobile industry. They have fought number porting and the elimination of interconnect fees. These are companies that have shown no interest in the welfare of the customers who keep them in business.

We believe that OTT services encourage consumers to participate more. The more they participate, the more they spend. Cell C is still a business and must make money. But good companies adapt and change to create new opportunities for themselves and their customers. Bad companies manipulate the system to only get what they want – the customer doesn’t matter.

I invite South Africans to interrogate the motivations of companies that would support this kind of regulation.

Connectivity is key to the welfare of a 21st century nation. These platforms empower individuals and communities.  They allow people to connect and be part of a global community. Now think of all the conversations we have every day on Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Talk, Skype, WeChat and more. Consider the many services such as Gmail, Office 365, Sage Accounting and so on that allow small business to start and flourish.

OTT regulation will force extra costs on those services or force their withdrawal. It will hurt consumers and small companies. It will disadvantage everyone – everyone except the networks whose only interest resides in protecting their revenues.

Cell C has proven that by opting for partnerships instead of bullying, you can work alongside OTT services to the benefit of everyone. We offered free WhatsApp services for a year, during which Cell C customers did not spend any data to send messages. Since we have transformed this into a low R5-per-month offer and opened our free services to include Facebook.

As a consequence we have not lost customers. We have grown and those customers have grown as well. They are more connected and informed, but without needing to pay more for the privilege. No, not privilege. It’s a right. It is not fair that those with a voice are only those who can afford to have one.

As I said in the beginning, regulation of the telecommunication space is a conversation that should happen. But what MTN, Vodacom and their collaborators are trying to do is not address the big issue. They simply want to protect what they have and they are happy to sell the consumer out in order to get that.

As it stands, Cell C does not support OTT regulation in South Africa, because the only losers will be the people whose money make us all successful businesses in the first place.

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro matches camera benchmark record

A benchmark by DxOMark sees the triple-cam handset tie with the P20 Pro for best smartphone camera on the market.

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The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has come out top in a camera benchmark test that assesses all aspects of smartphone camera performance.

DxOMark, which conducts rigorous hardware testing and is trusted as an industry standard for image quality measurements, has just released the results of its in-depth analysis of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone camera. 

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest top-end device. Building on the P20 Pro’s camera technology, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a Leica-branded triple-camera setup, but swaps its stable-mate’s monochrome camera for a super-wide-angle module, offering a 35mm-equivalent focal length range from 16 to 80mm—the widest of all current smartphone cameras.

The handset is in direct competition with the Apple iPhone XS Max, the Google Pixel 3 XL, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, among other. How does it fare?

“With a total photo score of 114, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro ties the record-setting score of its cousin, the P20 Pro,” says DxOMark. “The overall Photo score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions.”

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro achieves a photo score of 114 points. In stills mode, the Mate 20 Pro’s triple camera captures images with good target exposure and a wide dynamic range, recording both good highlight and shadow detail even in difficult high-contrast situations. Noise levels are well under control down to low light levels, and the camera’s white balance system and colour rendering settings produce a pleasant colour response in almost all circumstances.

At 97 points, the Mate 20 Pro is very close to the best for video as well, thanks to a fast and smooth autofocus system with good tracking performance, accurate white balance as well as pleasant colour rendering, and low levels of noise, especially in bright shooting conditions. Our testers also liked the exposure system’s ability to adapt quickly and smoothly to changes in illumination.

It was not all good news. DxOMark also had some criticism for the device.

Click here to read about the drawbacks of the Mate 20 Pro camera, and other positives.

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SA car wins
Dakar Rally

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The final stage of Dakar 2019 drew to a close at the bivouac in Pisco, Peru, and saw Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel bring home their South African-built Toyota Hilux for an historic victory. Not only was it a first win for Toyota, but it was also the first petrol-powered car to win the Dakar in the South-American era.

The Qatari driver ensured his French navigator, who turned 43 years old on Thursday, 17 January, received a great birthday present, when the pair arrived at the final time control of Dakar 2019 with teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in close formation. The two Toyota Hilux crews completed the entire stage together, as De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz waited nearly 55 minutes for the leaders to start the stage, in order to shadow them to the finish.

The emotions bubbled over for Team Principal Glyn Hall, who found himself without words as his two crews drove into the media area after the time control. “This victory was long overdue,” he finally managed, before being swamped in a sea of well-wishers.

The winning driver, however, was much more vocal: “We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA led Dakar 2019 from the first to the last stage, with Al Attiyah/Baumel drawing first blood, before handing the mantle to De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz during stage 2. But then a disastrous Stage 3 saw the Qatari retake the lead – a lead he didn’t relinquish despite some of the toughest stages yet seen on any South-American Dakar.

“When we first heard that the rally was going to take place only in one country, we were skeptical,” said Hall after regaining composure. “But the organisers made sure that this year’s race will long be remembered as one of the toughest tests in the last decade.”

Al Attiyah / Baumel’s victory at Dakar 2019 means that Toyota Gazoo Racing has now won both of the world’s toughest automotive races – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the DakarRally.

Click here to read Glyn Hall’s comment on winning the Dakar Rally, as well as the rankings.

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