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Vodacom meets out-of-bundle rate demands halfway

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Vodacom has announced that it will significantly reduce out-of-bundle prices for all customers from mid-October. 

However, it is now merely matching the rate charged by MTN and Cell C, namely 99c per Megabyte for prepaid customers. The calls for the high cost of data to fall include demands that MTN and Cell C cut their rates to an affordable level. This means that, while Vodacom has halved its peak rate, it still remains unaffordably high.

For pre-paid and customers on top-up packages, the out-of-bundle rate will drop by as much as 50% once the new 99c per megabyte tariff comes into effect on 15 October. The out-of-bundle rate for post-paid customers was reduced from R1 per megabyte to 89c on 1 October.

“Over the last few years, we’ve significantly brought down the cost of voice tariffs and moved customers to more affordable plans,” said Shameel Joosub, Group CEO of Vodacom. “We undertook to reduce out-of-bundle rates, and we’ve now delivered on that too. This saving on data costs follows our reducing data prices by 18.9% over the last year alone.”

He acknowledged, however that this was not enough.

“More needs to be done. We need to expand 4G coverage still further, and keep pace with an increase of more than 45% in sustained data traffic demand. Both of these come at a cost, and we have invested some R32.7 billion over the last four years. However, lack of access to spectrum is hampering our ability to drive down infrastructure costs and in turn, enable us to pass savings to the consumer.”

Vodacom has recently introduced a series of measures to encourage in-bundle adoption and minimise out-of-bundle usage. These include sending in-bundle data usage notifications which include personalised Just4You offers, which provide better value, and sending customers out-of-bundle data usage reminders which carry the actual rand value. All customers receive the first notification once R10 has been spent out-of-bundle, and depending on the customer profile, they can be sent up to 10 trigger notifications to encourage in-bundle data usage.

“Our Just4You platform provides personalised offers for customers and helps to drive down costs. More than 40% of our customers used voice or data bundles in the past financial year, an increase of around 25%, and our aim is to increase usage still further. Accelerating price reductions for data creates greater value for customers.”

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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