Vodacom SA launches GPRS'


Johannesburg -

17 10 02

Africa's biggest mobile operator Vodacom launched faster web browsing and multimedia services in South Africa on Thursday, which it said would eventually help lift declining average revenue per user figures.

General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) enables "always on" internet access via mobile phone and is a stepping stone towards the third, ultra-fast generation of mobile networks, UMTS, which has yet to be launched in most European countries.

Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS), just rolling out in Europe, allows picture and video-clip messaging.

"We need to break the perception that content on your phone is expensive," said Vodacom Managing Director Pieter Uys, calling MMS "SMS on steroids".

He told a news briefing that of Vodacom's 7.2 million subscribers in its home market, more than 200 000 had GPRS-enabled phones, and over 10 000 had MMS phones.

There was a global shortage of "camera-phones", he said, but as this eased, handset prices would come down, making them accessible to more people. This would slowly help raise usage.

"ARPUs are bottoming out now, so this will add to that. I don't see an increase in the next three months, but (they) will increase in the next 12 months," he said when asked about the impact of the services on average revenue per user (ARPUs).

Uys said data made up about 3% of revenues now - mostly from short text messages, which had shot up to 260 million a month now from some 50 million a month a year ago.

Vodacom, like other mobile operators, sees data services' contribution rising to about 25% within five years.

Uys said Vodacom had around 20 content providers so far for MMS services and would aim at encouraging more by handing over fees for content to them. "In Europe some operators take up to 60 percent of the content fee, and I think that's a problem."

He said MMS would be "event-billed", linked to the amount of data used. A long text message of less than five kilobytes would cost R1.

Vodacom's biggest local rival is MTN Group, which launched GPRS trials in May.

Uys said Vodacom has spent close to R500m on GPRS infrastructure.

It would also have to pay about R700m for access to higher-capacity 1800 MegaHertz frequency spectrum - a figure which would be decided by the government within two weeks.

It would have to pay an additional R150m to install equipment to monitor calls under a controversial new law, and another R100m to enable it to maintain call records for three years, as required by the new monitoring bill.

"So we'll need to find the extra ARPUs," Uys said.

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Detailed South African Information

:: Latest mobile statistics in South Africa (more...)
   CellC 3m
   MTN   5.22m
   Vodacom 9.7m

:: Vodacom South Africa - tariffs, specs, services
:: MTN South Africa - tariffs, specs, services
:: Cell C - tariffs, specs, services
:: SATRA/ICASA the regulatory body
:: Third South African Cellular License Story
:: Private Mobile Radio (PMR) Networks
:: Packet Radio Data Networks
:: Mobile Satellite Service License Holders
:: Telkom SA Tariffs To And From Mobiles
:: Cellular-related Web Sites In South & Southern Africa



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