Internet coverage in
Long Term Evolution (LTE), commonly referred to as 4G, and video will be a game-changer in the continent.
I looked at how LTE is working on Smile's network in
The device is almost exactly the same size as an iPod and creates your own Wi-Fi hotspot. So you turn it on, pop it in your pocket and you have Wi-Fi wherever there's coverage.
Whip out the iPad and there's the little blue dot on Google maps guiding us in. The Mi-Fi works both indoors and out, which is not something every WiMAX vendor can say with confidence. The difference from the portable hotspots inbuilt on smartphones is that the latter can't handle 4G.
But the real kicker is when you use video, it plays right away and runs all the way through to the end. That's how online videos are meant to run.
For the first time, I've actually had a bandwidth speed in
There are 1.5 million data users in
Both Orange (which has a good reputation for data) and MTN (which does not) are offering LTE but I didn't meet anyone with an LTE data connection or LTE mobile handset from either operator. It's this gap between where the mobile operators ought to be in network terms and their lack of the right spectrum that offers such an intriguing opportunity for the insurgent challengers. It's what WiMAX kept promising but never delivered.
Currently, Smile has covered the
The current device with 5GB of data goes for
Smile country manager for
The latest Apple iPad is capable of being used in the 800Mghz spectrum that Smile is operating in. Customers (and they won't tell us how many) are 50 per cent corporate and 50 per cent individuals who, based on the current pricing model, are high-income.
The purchase of high-end vs low-end bundles is again split half in half, with young professionals buying most of the low-end bundles. Bandwidth is sold in capacity bundles and individuals tend to find themselves using more at first and then cut back their use.
The challenge for incumbent telcos is to prove that they can break out of being the eternal corporate ISPs and actually capture thousands of customers.
The writer is CEO of Balancing Act, a consultancy and research company focused on telecoms, Internet and broadcast in
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