Tag: data

Vodacom slashes data prices by up to 40%

Source: Tech Financials

Vodacom has cut data prices by up to 40% and will provide free data to access essential services through Vodacom’s zero-rated platform ConnectU with immediate effect.

The value of these initiatives is some R2.7-billion over the next year.

Vodacom’s various 30-day data bundle prices will be cut across all of its channels by up to 40%, providing customers with even greater value and making it more affordable to connect.

30-day bundle size price reduction

  • 50MB R12 – cut by 40%
  • 150MB R29 – cut by 33%
  • 325MB R55 – cut by 33%
  • 500MB R79 – cut by 21%
  • 1GB R99 – cut by 34%
  • 3GB R229 – cut by 23%
  • 5GB R349 – cut by 14%
  • 10GB R469 – cut by 22%
  • 20GB R699 – cut by 31%

Jorge Mendes, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit, says: “Vodacom can play a critical role in supporting society during this challenging time and we’re committed to doing whatever we can to help customers stay connected. Since we started our pricing transformation strategy three years ago, our customers have benefitted from significant reductions in data prices and the cost of voice calls. Over the same period, we invested over R26 billion in infrastructure and new technologies, so our customers enjoy wider 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and vastly increased data speeds.”

The latest data reductions will complement the discounted bundle offers that will also be made available to prepaid customers in more than 2,000 less affluent suburbs and villages around the country. For qualifying communities to access further discounted voice and data deals, they need to simply click on the scrolling ConnectU banner on the platform via connectu.vodacom.co.za

ConnectU – which is a zero-rated platform – also goes live today. It will provide content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services for free. Learners and students enrolled in schools and universities can access relevant information for free, with no data costs.

The ConnectU portal includes a search engine linked to open sources such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary as well as free access to job portals; free educational content on the e-School platform; free health and wellness information and free access to Facebook Flex, the low data alternative to Facebook that enables customers to stay socially connected.

Vodacom’s popular Just4You platform has been a significant contributor to the approximately 50% reduction in effective data prices over the past two years. Substantial cuts in out-of-bundle tariffs and the introduction of hourly, daily and weekly bundles with much lower effective prices have also driven increased value and affordability, resulting in R2 billion in savings for customers in 2019.

This latest announcement is part of Vodacom’s social contract with the public and has been extensively discussed and agreed with the Competition Commission.

“Today’s price cuts and free access to ConnectU will also assist South Africans during the national state of disaster while at the same time helping to drive greater digital inclusion,” concludes Mendes.

By Yolisa Tswanya for IOL

They said it could’ve been slashed even further, but consumers have for now accepted a 34% reduction in Vodacom’s data prices.

Yesterday, it became the first network giant to comply with the Competition Commission’s call to lower data prices.

Morné Grewe said he was happy a decision has finally been made: “It will make a difference for many people.

“Even though it’s by 34%, it is a step in the right direction.

“It will make a difference to people and they won’t be spending so much per month on data.”

Beronisha Cloete said she found Vodacom to have good coverage but high prices: “I have never had any real problems with them.

“It can be a little lower, but it is what it is and we accept it.”

Nomzamo Balangile said the price reduction would allow her to buy data more regularly.

“I don’t always buy data because it’s expensive, but now maybe I will be able to buy more times a month,” she added. “I am glad they are lowering the price.”

Nedbank’s client data hacked

Source: Xinhuanet

Nedbank service provider’s IT systems have been breached, exposing the personal information of up to 1.7 million clients, said the bank last Thursday.

Computer Facilities, which does direct marketing for Nedbank by sending short messages and email marketing information on behalf of the bank, was breached.
The bank said there was some “potentially compromised data” which included names, identity cards numbers, telephone numbers, physical and/or email addresses.

“We regret the incident … and the matter is receiving our urgent attention. The safety and security of our clients’ information is a top priority,” said Nedbank CEO Mike Brown, adding that the bank systems or client accounts were not impacted.

“We are communicating directly with affected clients. We are also taking the necessary actions in close cooperation with the relevant regulators and authorities,” said Brown.

Nedbank group Chief Information Officer Fred Swanepoel said they have secured and destroyed all their client information held by Computer Facilities.

Last year the City of Johannesburg’s system was hacked and some payment in bitcoins were demanded. In 2017 South Africa’s insurance company Liberty was hacked and demanded ransom.

Disappearing MTN airtime caused by SMS error

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

MTN has investigated a report of disappearing airtime on its network and found the cause to be an issue with its SMS charging system.

An MTN customer recently contacted MyBroadband after noticing that his airtime balance was decreasing, despite him having active voice, SMS, and data bundles.

The customer recorded his MTN airtime balance over a 10-day period and found that his balance was depleting at a rate of around R0.10 per day.

This resulted in a total loss of R1.00 over the 10-day test.

Additionally, out-of-bundle data usage was not active for the user.

Faulty SMS charging node
MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said the depleting airtime was caused by a problem with an SMS charging node.

“Upon our investigation, we have established that our customer’s airtime was incorrectly depleted due to a faulty node which is used for SMS charging,” O’Sullivan said.

“The number format for the B-number was not being normalised to 083 format, but was instead being sent as 2783 which resulted in incorrect charging.”

“This node is one of eight which is used in a round-robin method for SMS charging,” she said.

O’Sullivan added that the node was detected and removed from traffic on 20 December 2019, which is why the customer’s airtime remained unchanged from this date.

Customers affected
It is currently unclear how many customers were affected by the faulty SMS charging node, but MTN is investigating this to determine which users to reimburse.

“We have extended our investigation to establish the number of customers that may have been affected by this error,” O’Sullivan said.

According to the mobile operator, the error affected SMS services for a number of its prepaid and hybrid customers.

“Pending the outcome of this investigation, we intend communicating to affected customers regarding their reimbursement.”

By Riccardo Spagni for Fin24

Privacy is widely held as a fundamental human right and is recognised in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in the Constitution of nearly every country in the world.

Privacy is becoming a growing concern as the world continues its mass digitisation. As we move more of our day-to-day business and personal communications and interactions online, the trail of personal data breadcrumbs we leave behind grows.

Take something as simple as an online transaction: when the average consumer pays a merchant in Europe via their PayPal account, their data goes to as many as 600 different companies. The consumer has zero visibility over any of the companies involved. The amount of metadata about our lives is staggering – and we have no control over any of it.

Financial privacy and its malcontents

Regulators have tried to resolve some of the issues around data privacy and use of personal information by businesses. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is a far-reaching piece of legislation that aims to protect EU citizens from unwanted or unauthorised personal data use. Although the upper limits of its sanctions still need to be tested, GDPR promises fines of up to €20-million to organisations that compromise the personal data of any EU citizen.

But for most transactions, consumers and businesses remain at the mercy of a vast network of interlinked companies that process and distribute our personal metadata across the globe. A lot of this is driven by convenience: when cash was still the preferred payment method, people enjoyed a fair amount of privacy as cash transactions can be concluded away from any prying eyes.

With the introduction of electronic payment methods such as wire transfers, SWIFT, credit cards and mobile payments, privacy has been sacrificed for convenience. The amount of Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) processes in place means consumers have little in the way of financial privacy as financial services firms are bound by law to constantly analyse transactions for any irregularities and report them to authorities where appropriate.

Shining a light on criminality

Financial crime is a massive problem. A 2018 Thomson Reuters survey of 2373 respondents in 19 countries – including South Africa – found that the aggregate lost turnover as a result of financial crimes amounted to $1.45-trillion, or 3.5% of their total global turnover. In Europe, on average one in every 200 transactions reviewed by bank compliance officers lead to a criminal investigation, but only 1% of criminal proceeds generated in the EU are confiscated by authorities.

But financial privacy is not only important to criminals; it is a critical safety measure for every digital citizen. Without financial privacy, personal and financial safety can be compromised by criminals who could, for example, see the value of a purchase that someone made – as well as their personal details – and use that information to target them with criminal activities. As a business, financial privacy keeps intimate business details such as salary information, profit margins and revenue away from unwanted eyes.

Cryptocurrencies often come into the firing line for their anonymity and lack of regulatory oversight. High-profile examples of illicit purchases on the dark web using cryptocurrencies have made regulators wary of their potential for driving criminal activity.

Not all cryptocurrencies are made equal

A large part of the appeal of cryptocurrencies is that they are more discrete than mainstream payment methods. And while this is partly what makes them attractive to criminals, it is unfair to assume all discrete transactions are criminal. We all make purchases we would rather other people not know about, for fear of embarrassment or judgement. Anonymity also has its benefits: who hasn’t suddenly seen a spike in advertisements related to something you once searched for online, or saw similar products to one you’ve just bought advertised on sites you visit?

Privacy enhancing cryptocurrencies are built on five pillars, namely:

  • Unlinkability, which conceals where transactions are going to;
  • Untraceability, which conceals the origins of transactions;
  • Cryptgraphically valueless, which hides the value of a transaction;
  • Passively hidden, which conceals the transaction from other internet users; and
  • Optionality, which maximises the privacy set while still enabling you to reveal information should you need to.

But not all cryptocurrencies are created equal. And not all have the privacy of their users as a primary concern. Cryptocurrencies such as Monero were built to provide users with the optimum amount of privacy. That’s why I’d add a sixth pillar to the above, namely Ideology. Since cryptocurrencies involve thousands – even millions – of people, it is critical that the cryptocurrency is managed according to a strict set of privacy-enhancing guidelines.

Every contributor to Monero, for example, understands they are responsible for other people’s money, privacy and, by extension, safety. Contributors could, through reckless actions, compromise someone’s financial security or even their lives. Any privacy project that treats it with less care is indistinguishable from a scam and can put people’s lives at risk.

There’s a popular argument that honest people don’t need privacy since they have nothing to hide. But that’s fallacy. As Edward Snowden put it, “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different to saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

Financial privacy is a fundamental human right. Technology can be both the greatest inhibitor or promoter of privacy. The responsibility rests on all of us who participate in the new world of cryptocurrencies to ensure we protect the privacy of our users.

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

A Vodacom customer contacted MyBroadband this week stating that their mobile data bundles were being depleted on a “Last In First Out” (LIFO) basis, which is in contravention of ICASA’s regulations which came into effect on 1 March 2019.

Among other requirements, these regulations require networks to deplete data on a “First In First Out” (FIFO) basis.

This means that your older data bundles should be used up before your newer bundles in order to optimise the amount of data eligible for rollover.

Depleting newer data bundles first means that the average expiry date of a customer’s rolled-over data balance becomes earlier.

The customer who contacted MyBroadband received a 20GB data bundle on 1 March 2019 and was left with 4.27GB of this bundle on 31 March 2019. On 1 April 2019, the customer then received a new 20GB data bundle.

According to the FIFO system, the bundle with a balance of 4.27GB should have been depleted first when usage occurred – but the new 20GB bundle which expired on 30 April began depleting instead.

MyBroadband contacted Vodacom for feedback on this case to determine whether this was an isolated incident or a possible failure to switch to the new rules.

Vodacom responds
Vodacom told MyBroadband that applying new systems in line with the regulations to its large customer base was a technical challenge.

“To meet the requirements of the regulations, Vodacom had to apply an order of consumption rule change to a base of over 40 million subscribers in addition to a number of other changes brought about by ICASA’s charter,” Vodacom stated.

“As one might expect with a complex and technical implementation of this magnitude – arguably one of the largest in Vodacom’s history – there will be some glitches.”

Vodacom said its technical team has worked tirelessly to resolve these when they arise and is currently investigating the case mentioned above.

“[The affected customer]’s case is an isolated incident that our technical team is currently investigating as all customers should have their data depleting according to the FIFO order of consumption rules,” Vodacom stated.

Vodacom added that its new data depletion system has already been implemented which automatically prevents out-of-bundle use.

Customers can also purchase Vodacom’s Data Refill product or set an out-of-bundle limit if they wish to retain connectivity after depleting their data bundle.

By Chantall Presence for IOL 

Vodacom on Wednesday announced it would rollover data for free following outrage from its customers and South Africa’s telecommunications regulator.

The mobile operator had initially indicated it would charge customers R49 to rollover unused data or transfer to data to friends and family.

In a statement, Vodacom detailed its new tariffs ahead of new data rules taking effect this week.

“From 1 March, remaining data on bundle purchases by all customers will be rolled over at no additional charge once a customer purchases the same bundle as the original one,” the statement said.

Transferring unused data will, however, come at a cost.

“Customers will be able to transfer data that is about to expire to friends and family on the Vodacom network for fees ranging from free for 50MB up to a maximum of R20 for 1GB.”

In a bid to lower the high cost of data in South Africa, the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter regulations were amended and come into effect on Thursday.

The new rules on data include consumers being notified of how much data they are consuming, people being given the option to roll over or transfer data before it expires, and mobile operators not being able to charge consumers out of bundle rates without their prior consent.

Rain and Huawei roll out high-speed 5G in SA

By Siseko Njobeni for Business Live

SA’s data-only network operator Rain, which is partly owned by businessmen Patrice Motsepe, Paul Harris and Michael Jordaan, has partnered with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to roll out the high-speed 5G network by the middle of 2019.

The roll-out will make SA one of the first countries to launch 5G, which promises faster download speeds, reliable network connectivity and the ability to connect more devices at once.

“The network will provide fibre-like speeds without installation complexities, time delays and cost of laying fibre in underserviced areas,” Rain CEO Willem Roos said on Tuesday.

Rain and Huawei made the announcement at the 2019 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, where 5G took centre stage.

“5G is here. If there is any doubt, you only have to walk around [the conference],” said Harris, who is also Rain chair.

He said that the development of 5G products later in the year would hit the industry like a tsunami.

Roos said Rain would take advantage of its existing 4G network and allocated spectrum.

Huawei said its products would enable Rain to use the existing network, saying leveraging existing infrastructure would accelerate the roll-out of the 5G network. Rain had about 3,000 4G sites in SA, Roos said.

“It is well-known that as broadband penetration increases in a country, you get better economic growth. With better economic growth, you can see improvement in employment. We are big supporters of [President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan] to re-energise investment in SA.

“We made a promise to invest a significant amount of money in 5G,” Roos said.

“We hope to have rolled out a significant number of towers in [Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban] by mid-2019 to offer commercial services to clients.”

Rain planned to roll out the network rapidly, aiming for “significant” coverage in metropolitan areas initially, he said. The company said it wanted to deploy 1,000 5G sites in major cities in the next two years.

Responding to a question during the announcement, Roos said Rain had no immediate plans to expand to the rest of Africa. “Obviously, there is complexity around spectrum, licences and those kinds of issues. Certainly, SA can play a crucial role as the gateway to Africa. We will see if commercial opportunities that make sense arise.”

GSMA director-general Mats Granryd said: “The arrival of 5G forms a major part of the world’s move towards an era of intelligent connectivity, which alongside developments in the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence, is poised to be a key driver of economic growth over the coming years.”

GSMA is a global mobile industry body.

It said in a report that 5G would account for 15% of global mobile connections by 2025.

What it costs to send a WhatsApp message in SA

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

WhatsApp has become the most popular messaging app for smartphones in South Africa, thanks to its cheap messaging costs compared to standard SMS rates offered by mobile operators.

The app offers South Africans a way to call, text, and share media with each other at rates far lower than anything offered by mobile networks, even when using a mobile data bundle.

Our previous tests have shown that using WhatsApp to call over a mobile data connection is far cheaper than making a cellular call to another user.

However, other forms of communication offered by the app use different amounts of mobile data.

We therefore tested how much data was used by different types of WhatsApp messaging and calling options.

Data usage
The WhatsApp data usage was measured using WhatsApp’s built-in network usage tools, which provide a refined data usage measurement for smaller options such as text messages.

Data on video and voice calling over WhatsApp was sourced from MyBroadband’s previous tests.

We used two Android smartphones for this test, sending one message at a time between the devices and monitoring the data usage reflected within the application.

The data usage for text messages, standard-resolution photos, one-minute voice calls, 30-second voice notes, 10-second videos, and one-minute voice calls was collected and compared to provide an overview of the data usage requirements for WhatsApp on a modern smartphone.

From the data we collected, it is apparent that certain functions such as voice notes and standard text messages use very little data and can be quite optimal for communicating over mobile data.

To determine how much each message would cost, we compared the amount of data used for each message type with the price of a 1GB data bundle on each mobile network in South Africa.

Standard 1GB mobile data bundle pricing was used to provide parity with Rain, which charges a flat R50-per-GB rate on its data-only network.

We used these prices to calculate a price-per-MB, which was then used to calculate how much each WhatsApp message type would cost on the mobile networks.

The results are posted below:

By Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman and AnnaMaria Andriotis for Wall Street Journal 

The social-media giant has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking-account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users.

Facebook increasingly wants to be a platform where people buy and sell goods and services, besides connecting with friends. The company over the past year asked JPMorgan Chase JPM 0.37% & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. C 0.01% and U.S. Bancorp USB 0.70% to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger, people familiar with the matter said.

Facebook has talked about a feature that would show its users their checking-account balances, the people said. It has also pitched fraud alerts, some of the people said.

Data privacy is a sticking point in the banks’ conversations with Facebook, said people familiar with the matter. The talks are taking place as Facebook faces several investigations over its ties to political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which accessed data on as many 87 million Facebook users without their consent.

One large U.S. bank pulled away from the talks due to privacy concerns, some of the people said.

Facebook has told banks that the additional customer information could be used to offer services that might entice users to spend more time on Messenger, a person familiar with the discussions said. The company is trying to deepen user engagement: Investors shaved more than $120 billion from its market value in one day last month after it said its growth is starting to slow.

Facebook said it wouldn’t use the bank data for ad-targeting purposes or share it with third parties.

“We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit-card companies for ads,” spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana said. “We also don’t have special relationships, partnerships or contracts with banks or credit-card companies to use their customers’ purchase data for ads.”

Facebook shares climbed sharply Monday on the news, rising 4.45%, marking the biggest one-day gain since last month’s historic drop.

Banks face pressure to build relationships with big online platforms, which reach billions of users and drive a growing share of commerce. They also are trying to reach more users digitally. Many struggle to gain traction in mobile payments.

Yet banks are hesitant to hand too much control to third-party platforms such as Facebook. They prefer to keep customers on their own websites and apps.

As part of the proposed deals, Facebook asked banks for information about where their users are shopping with their debit and credit cards outside of purchases they make using Facebook Messenger, the people said. Messenger has some 1.3 billion monthly active users, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call last month.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Amazon.com Inc. also have asked banks to share data if they join with them, in order to provide basic banking services on applications such as Google Assistant and Alexa, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Facebook has taken a harder public line on privacy since the Cambridge Analytica uproar. A product privacy team has announced new features such as “clear history,” which would allow users to prevent the service from collecting their off-Facebook browsing details. It also is making efforts to alert users to its privacy settings.

That hasn’t assuaged concerns over Facebook’s privacy practices. Bank executives are worried about the breadth of information being sought, even if it means their bank might not being available on certain platforms their customers use. Bank customers would need to opt-in to the proposed Facebook services, the company said in a statement Monday.

JPMorgan isn’t “sharing our customers’ off-platform transaction data with these platforms, and have had to say no to some things as a result,” spokeswoman Trish Wexler said.

Banks view mobile commerce as one of their biggest opportunities but are still running behind technology firms such as PayPal Holdings Inc. PYPL 0.62% and Square Inc. Customers have moved slowly, too; many Americans still prefer using credit or debit cards, along with cash and checks.

In an effort to compete with PayPal’s Venmo, a group of large banks last year connected their smartphone apps to money-transfer network Zelle. Results are mixed so far: While usage has risen, many banks still aren’t on the platform.

In recent years, Facebook has tried to transform Messenger into a hub for customer service and commerce, in keeping with a broader trend among mobile messaging services.

A partnership with American Express Co. AXP 1.04% allows Facebook users to contact the card company’s representatives. Last year, Facebook struck a deal with PayPal that allows users of that payment service to send money through Messenger. And Mastercard Inc. MA 0.54% cardholders can place online orders with certain merchants through Messenger using the card company’s Masterpass digital wallet. (A Mastercard spokesman said Facebook doesn’t see the card users’ information.)

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