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Out of Touch and Falling Behind?

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Yesterday I got an email that first infuriated me and now just depresses me. The Ayoba MTN newsletter showed the current deal of the month, the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0. I’m not big on tablets but can see the utility for someone who doesn’t need a laptop or wants something more portable primarily for entertainment with a little bit of productivity on the go.

MTN Deal of the Month


This deal, R199 on an MTN100 contract, seems like great value for money but is symptomatic of a wider malaise in the South African mobile landscape. Tablets are by definition online devices, designed with data as the fuel that drives the engine. What does the MTN Deal of the Month come with? A whopping 10MB of data bundled for just the first six months!

What does one do with 10MB of data? Some really nice apps on the Android Market are 3-4 MBs in size and even bigger. Common tasks like web browsing, rich HTML email viewing and Youtube are data hogging services. Having used a couple of Android devices, even something as simple as restoring my Google account when I switch devices is significantly more that a 10 MB data transfer event. And if you are not using the tablet for data-centric services what are you going to be doing with it, sideloading content? In the “post PC” era one should not be so heavily tethered to a PC. There is the option of Wi-Fi for some people but this is a 3G device!

What worries me, and I see this so often with networks here, is the unwillingness to provide users with adequate resources to utilize devices that they pay top dollar for. Network coverage is pretty good in South Africa, I have gotten great down and uplink speeds, but the data constraint is not being addressed. High end smarphones are sold, with 10, 75 and maximum 250-300 MB data for iPhones. As a frugal data user, I am in the 250-350 MB region as it is! Mobile is the future yet we are still stuck in a destkop-centric paradigm. Just look at the pricing of data on data-only SIMs versus voice-and-data SIMs. Why are we not seeing 2GB for R149 bundles available on phones and 3G tablets?

Are my demands unrealistic? What is holding back the networks from providing cheaper more comprehensive data packages for mobile devices?

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By , Columnist, Johannesburg office

Published on Apr 16th, 2012 GMT +2


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