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Smartphones change shape of cellphone banking

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The recent Mobility 2012 research study conducted by World Wide Worx and First National Bank has revealed that most cellphone banking is still conducted via text messages. The study further revealed that the most popular cellphone transaction is airtime purchases.

The shape of cellphone banking is changing rapidly, as the capabilities of phones themselves change, according to a new study released today.

The Mobility 2012 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the backing of First National Bank, shows that while most cellphone banking is still conducted via text messages, more than a third of customers of these services are now also using phone browsers for their banking.

Only 5% of cellphone bankers exclusively use phone browsers for the purpose, but a further 36% use the browsers as well as text-based services like USSD and SMS.

‚”The growing sophistication of phones both feature and smartphones is resulting in new options and opportunities for customers of cellphone banking,‚” says Ravesh Ramlakan, CEO of FNB Cellphone Banking. ‚”The customer is driving the pace of innovation in banking, and our job is to be available to them where they want to transact.‚”

According to the study, the single most popular transactional service in cellphone banking remains airtime purchases, with 74% of customers using it for this purpose, and only 15% paying accounts via their phones. Phone-based purchases via the phone of physical products that are delivered to the buyer are made by only 4% of urban cellphone users, but by no rural users whatsoever.

‚”A big opportunity still lies dormant in mobile commerce,‚” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx. ‚”But virtual business will always need infrastructure, and that remains the barrier to cellphone purchases of physical product.‚”

Along with airtime purchases, remaining the core of mobile commerce, more than half of cellphone banking customers also transfer airtime, with rural users (69%) far more likely to do so than urban users (51%). The same gap exists in mobile purchases of pre-paid electricity, with 33% of rural cellphone banking users and only 21% of urban users doing so via their phones. The pattern is repeated in sending money to other individuals via cellphone banking: 44% rural, 34% urban.

‚”The popularity of money and airtime transfers via cellphone banking is one of the clues to why stand-alone mobile money transfer services have not taken off in South Africa,‚” says Goldstuck. ‚”There simply is no desperate need for them, as there is in other African countries.‚”

The urban-rural divide also reveals itself in other areas, most notably in the proportion of pre-paid users. While 80% of urban users have pre-paid accounts, the proportion of rural pre-paid users is 94%. The average phone spend of contract users is R387 per month, more than double that of rural users, who spend on average R165 a month.

‚”This highlights the priority that needs to be placed on providing services that both simplify the lives of all, and reduce their costs of using financial services,‚” says Ramlakan. ‚”While cellphone banking brings convenience and savings to urban customers, it can change the lives of rural users.‚”

The Mobility 2012 project comprises two reports, namely The Mobile Consumer in SA 2012, comprising cellphone usage and banking trends, and The Mobile Internet in SA 2012, exploring online and data trends. It is based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of South African adult cellphone users living in cities and towns, conducted in June 2012.

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Getting London wired

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Ruckus Wireless has been selected by Telefónica UK, which operates the O2 brand, to supply high-capacity small cell products for high-speed wireless services being deployed throughout London.

Already deployed throughout the busiest, iconic areas in central London, such as Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, Leicester Square, Regent Street and Oxford Street, Ruckus SmartCell 8800s have initially been deployed to provide free, fast and reliable Wi-Fi to anyone.

Within a single, low-profile design, the SmartCell 8800 is the first carrier-grade, modular multi-radio system to integrate patented adaptive antenna array technology supporting multiple licensed and unlicensed radio technologies including: high-speed dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, small cell 3G/4G radios and 5GHz wireless backhaul. This gives Telefónica UK the flexibility to easily and economically offer high-speed Wi-Fi and cellular services in specific locations when needed.

‚”For O2, it’s all about us providing customers with fast and reliable connectivity where they need it,‚” said Derek McManus, chief operating officer for Telef√≥nica UK. ‚”Our vision is for Wi-Fi to be simply another access layer to our mobile core. Customers don’t really care about the underlying technology: they care about getting connected, fast and reliably. The introduction of small cells helps us to support these requirements and completely complements our mobile strategy by letting us push capacity closer to users in locations where it makes the most sense.‚”

‚”In telecoms there is now a mad race to the lamppost, and the first one there wins,‚” said Selina Lo, president and CEO of Ruckus Wireless. ‚”A big barrier in small cell deployment is simply securing the physical locations with the requisite power and backhaul to support small cells. Once physical assets secured, it becomes important for operators to exploit them with as much technology as they can. This means multi-function, carrier-grade products that are simple deploy, unobtrusive and massively scalable. SmartCell is one of those products and O2 is one of those operators taking a lead in this race.‚”

After extensive evaluations of wireless suppliers, Telef√≥nica UK selected Ruckus and its SmartCell system. ‚”It all really boiled down to who had the best Wi-Fi for carriers and the most forward-thinking strategy to integrate Wi-Fi within existing and future cellular infrastructure,‚” said McManus.

‚”Such partnerships prove that industry players are starting to see the benefits Wi-Fi is bringing to their services,‚” adds Michael Fletcher sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. ‚”We are likely to continue to see more industry players embracing this transformation globally, and hopefully locally as well as operators look for solutions to cater for their growing customer base.‚”

Beating the Backhaul Dilemma

‚”A major challenge with small cell deployments is how to reliably backhaul traffic from potentially thousands of small cell nodes without breaking the bank,‚” said Robert Joyce, chief radio engineer at Telef√≥nica UK.‚”

Telefónica UK effectively eliminates this problem by meshing traffic over highly reliable 5GHz Wi-Fi mesh links between nodes using Ruckus Smart Mesh technology. Smart Mesh uses advanced self-organising network (SON) principles with Ruckus-patented adaptive antenna arrays (BeamFlex) and predictive channel management techniques (ChannelFly). Combined these technologies create highly resilient, high-speed Wi-Fi mesh backbone links between nodes that automatically adapt to changes in environmental conditions.

Thought by many to not be possible, Smart Mesh has demonstrated to deliver reliable backhaul for licensed cellular and unlicensed Wi-Fi traffic in both line of sight and non-line of site environments.

‚”Ruckus Smart Mesh technology is proving to offer a cost-effective, reliable and flexible alternative to conventional approaches,‚” said Joyce. ‚”With Smart Mesh, we are running fiber to just one of every five nodes. This has proven to be a huge benefit in reducing capital and operational expense with the added bonus of reducing the time to market.‚”

Big Improvements with Small Cells

Small cells represent a new architectural approach for injecting much needed capacity into service provider networks. Small cells are miniature base stations that combine licensed and unlicensed radio technology with wireless backhaul to deliver lower powered wireless signals much closer to mobile users. This results in better signal coverage, improved voice quality and higher data performance.

Small cells enable operators to provide a premium quality mobile signal where it was never previously economic, such as indoor environments and remote outdoor locations. They also enable operators to meet the burgeoning demand for mobile data, by multiplying the data capacity of the macro network at a fraction of the cost.

With the Ruckus SmartCell system, mobile operators gain a capacity boost from LTE small cells, cutting costs and complexity by co-locating and combining them with Wi-Fi access points, sharing site-lease agreements and backhaul. The integration of Wi-Fi and LTE small cells within the cellular core also helps operators optimize network utilization across the radio access network, providing a further improvement in performance, and creating a seamless experience for subscribers.

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Pre-paid data at 15c/MB

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Cell C has announced the extension of its existing 15c/MB postpaid and prepaid data promotions until the end of October.

The company has also lowered the price of its entry-level 500MB data offer from R49 to R45 and while stocks last, this offer also includes a free 7.2Mbps speedstick.

‚”What our customers want is affordable, high quality data services. Our promotional data packages offer customers data at very competitive in- and out-of-bundle rates. Our in-bundle rate remains at the bottom 5 cents per MB*, and we have reduced our out of bundle rate from 39 cents to a much more competitive 15 cents per MB,‚” says Cell C CEO Alan Knott-Craig.

Knott-Craig says customers can expect more exciting announcements in the coming weeks.

Table of promotional pricing (prices include VAT):

Postpaid

Standard rate

Promotion

OOB rate

500MB + 7.2Mbps speedstick

R129 p/m

R45 p/m

15c/MB

2GB SIM only

R279 p/m

R99 p/m

15c/MB

2GB + 7.2Mbps speedstick

R299 p/m

R119 p/m

15c/MB

Promotional postpaid offers are all on 24- month contracts only

Prepaid

Standard rate

Promotion

OOB rate

24GB SIM only or 24GB SmartData Voucher

R1 999 once-off

R1 299 once-off

15c/MB

24GB + 21.6Mbps speedstick

R2 999 once-off

R1 999 once-off

15c/MB

The data on promotional prepaid offers are valid for 12 months (2GB every 30 days X 12)

* (applies to 2GB and 24GB)

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