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Hey Trevor, I Noah better way

If Trevor Noah, the spinmeister of Cell C, wants to make himself the darling of (at least some of) the SA cellphone community, he might consider this: get Cell C to start a massive roll-out of Wi-Fi hotspots in major centres, saturating them with broadband access.

It will allow the fast-growing smartphone customer base to open the broadband taps for content and communication, and break the back of the current carrier model that continues to dominate the cellphone market at absurdly high costs. Then develop a widget that notifies us when we are in hot-spot range and enables us to seamlessly switch.

* A Wi-Fi environment will enable us to send SMSs at true data charges (effectively zero).

* A Wi-Fi environment will enable us to make voice calls over Skype or similar systems at data rates (fast approaching zero).

* A Wi-Fi environment will enable us to activate the broadband content potential of our phones (video, music etc) at a fraction of the current rates.

Of course it means that Cell C will have to eat its lunch. This can’t be too much of a problem when you consider how poorly Cell C has fared against the Big Two operators, and soon it will have Telkom on its back when the dying telco makes a desperate lunge into mobile later this year.

OK, I can hear all those smug BlackBerry owners out their smirking — they have a R60 a month all-you-can eat data plan. But try downloading a video on your BlackBerry and watch the free lunch turn into a 5-course meal at the Savoy — before tips.

I raise this as MultiChoice and have been awarded licences for TV broadcasts over DVB-H, the protocol for mobile TV. Doubtless the yuppie in all of us will want it, but the truth is the really valuable content is not pre-programmed broadcasting; it is the deep, wide digital content universe spawned by the likes of YouTube and iTunes. Content on demand — on any device — is the future of content. Period.

All this stuff travels happily along the bread-and-butter IP protocol of the public internet, which is common to all smartphones, as long as there is enough bandwidth to support the traffic.

The voice carrier model has been doomed for a decade; the cellphone operators know it but they are happily going to milk it for all that it’s worth while they tip-toe into the digital landscape. That’s the window of opportunity for Cell C; leapfrog us into the broadband Wi-Fi space, lead the smartphone revolution and win an army of truly grateful customers.

I’m watching you Trevor, like a hawk!


  • Bruce Cohen

    A former journalist, in recent years founder and CEO of Absolute Organix.