Tag: Vodacom

By Rual de Vries for MyBroadband

The Communications Risk Information Centre (Comric) says that relying solely on collecting customers’ biometric data to curb SIM swap fraud won’t do the trick.

Comric is a non-profit organisation established by MTN, Cell C, Telkom, Vodacom, and Liquid Intelligent Technologies.

Its goal is to identify, prevent, and mitigate risks within the South African telecommunications industry.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) published draft regulations in March 2022 that would require mobile network operators to collect subscriber biometric data.

Icasa said these regulations would reduce instances of mobile number hijacking via fraudulent SIM swaps and number porting.

The South African Banking Risk Information Centre crime statistics showed that fraudulent SIM swap incidents nearly doubled in 2020 — from 11,646 in 2019 to 22,285 in 2020.

Scammers use these techniques to take control of targets’ cellphone numbers and access their Internet banking applications.

In response to Icasa’s proposed regulations, Comric met all of the country’s mobile network operators to examine the implications and feasibility of biometric data collection.

MyBroadband asked Comric what consensus mobile operators came to during the forum.

“As biometric data is indicated as [Icasa’s] solution [to fraudulent SIM swaps], the telecommunications industry would like to explore alternative solutions,” Comric CEO Vernall Muller said.

“Biometrics is but one of many strategies to use — to require operators to implement only biometrics is taking a single approach solution, which is not the silver bullet.”

Although Comric members agree that SIM swap fraud is a problem, they said that other issues require attention in the short to medium term.

“Less than one percent of SIM swaps performed annually are fraudulent,” Comric said.

“SIM swap is but one problem, whereas identity fraud is much more problematic.”

Comric noted that the telecommunication industry already has a dedicated workstream focused on reducing the number of fraudulent SIM swaps and implementing mitigative measures.

Besides being too limited in scope, Comric said that there are several challenges and limitations to collecting subscriber biometric data.

“For operators who use direct customer touchpoints across South Africa in the informal and rural areas, implementing biometrics will have immense cost implications and logistical challenges,” said Comric.

“Operators that use wholesale channels do not appoint their own agents in the distribution channels, which means they have no control or visibility over the implementation of biometrics,” the association added.

“Should Icasa’s proposed changes get adopted, it will require extensive changes to existing systems and databases.”

Therefore, the forum attendees agreed they should be allowed to present Icasa with a timeline regarding biometric data implementation.

“The implementation should be done in a flexible manner, where operators are given leeway to decide what is best to accommodate all consumers,” the association said.

“In the interim, the telecommunications industry, Comric, and ICASA should engage further to identify the core of the problem we want to solve, identify temporary solutions, and create a long-term plan to implement biometrics.”

 

Source: MyBroadband

Research from DataEQ, in partnership with Deloitte Africa, shows that telecoms remains South Africa’s least-liked industry.

The latest South African Telecommunications Sentiment Index revealed that the sector ranked last for the second consecutive year compared to banking, insurance, and food retail.

Retail had a public net sentiment of 4.1%, followed by insurance at 1.4%.

While banking had a negative public net sentiment of -7.5%, it was eclipsed by people’s dislike of telecoms.

The researchers measured public net sentiment for the telecommunications industry at -31.5%.

The report also ranked cellular network operators according to customer sentiment, analysing operational and reputational customer opinion.

Overall, MTN had the highest net sentiment of South Africa’s mobile operators with –6.7% — extending its lead over the rest with a 14.9 percentage point improvement from last year.

Vodacom saw an increase of 2.8 percentage points — enough to go from third to second place.

However, Telkom is breathing down its neck after a 13.6 percentage point surge.

Cell C dropped from second to fourth place thanks to a deterioration in operational sentiment.

“Operational conversation pertains to mentions from consumers in a customer journey with a network provider, from those looking to sign up or cancel, as well as current customers or ex-customers reflecting on their experiences,” the researchers explained.

They found that Cell C’s customer migration to Vodacom and MTN drove complaints.

Rather than compete with MTN and Vodacom in network investment, Cell C opted to switch off its cellular network and entered separate deals with its rivals.

Cell C prepaid customers would use an MTN-managed network, while contract subscribers roam on Vodacom’s network.

The researchers concluded that this resulted in a swell of customer complaints about network downtime.

MTN and Rain also saw increased negativity around their networks, with network quality complaints doubling in their contribution to both operators’ negative operational conversation year-on-year.

Vodacom saw multiple flares in operational complaints over the year.

The researchers stated that these complaints were primarily linked to the competitor’s ShakeOff puzzles.

Vodacom subscribers claimed the puzzles were impossible to complete.

There were also some reports of Vodacom network downtime, the report said.

Vodacom was the only provider whose reputational sentiment declined year on year.

The researchers found that this negative shift was tied mainly to a rise in negativity related to pursuing a telecoms licence in Ethiopia.

Telkom recorded the most significant year-on-year improvement in reputation thanks to decreased negativity and a rise in positive reputational sentiment.

While network quality and customer service remained highly negative areas for network operators in 2021, pricing sentiment increased by 6.4 percentage points from 2020

“In 2021, Cell C, MTN and Vodacom all decreased the price of their 1GB, 30-day data bundle to R85, while Telkom reduced their equivalent offering to R79,” the researchers stated.

“This was likely a driving factor behind the progress seen by the industry in terms of pricing sentiment.”

 

MTN, Vodacom networks hit by floods

By Sibongile Khumalo for News24

The torrential rains that have battered parts of KwaZulu-Natal since Saturday have shut down 500 MTN network sites in the region, the cellphone company said on Tuesday.

“The flooding in the KZN region has caused power outages at many of our sites, and while we have battery back-up at many of the sites, these batteries have been depleted,” says Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN SA’s spokesperson.

According to the country’s second-largest cellular network provider, some of the areas impacted by the outage at this stage include Durban South, South Coast, Umlazi, Amanzimtoti, Ballito, and Salt Rock.

Technicians are working to restore connectivity in the affected areas.

Mayor of eThekwini Mxolisi Kaunda has told media that the flooding had resulted in damage to roads and had knocked out electricity supply to several parts of the city. Several water supply lines have also been affected.

Several regions across the country have been hit by heavy rains since last weekend.

Meanwhile Vodacom spokesperson, Byron Kennedy, said over 400 network towers of the company from the north to the south coast of Durban have been impacted due to disruptions to electricity supply. He said areas from Ballito to Amanzimtoti, in the south, “are currently experiencing intermittent mobile services”.

Some fibre infrastructure is also affected due to water-logged fibre ducts.

Kennedy said efforts to restore sites were being hampered by severe damage to roads and certain facilities not being accessible due to the risk of electrical shocks.

Provincial disaster management teams have revealed that over 45 people have lost their lives as a result of the heavy rains, according to a statement issued by the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sipho Hlomuka.

 

By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband

Vodacom has won leave to appeal a High Court judgement in the Please Call Me case on the grounds that the judge may have applied a legal principle called the Bekker test incorrectly.

Judge Wendy Hughes granted Vodacom leave to appeal her earlier ruling in a 7-page judgement delivered yesterday.

Makate, who worked as Vodacom finance manager, pitched his idea of a method to “buzz” someone else’s phone without airtime to a superior on 21 November 2000.

His idea was ultimately developed into Please Call Me, which launched on the Vodacom network in January 2001.

Makate launched legal action against Vodacom in 2008 after sending letters to the network in 2007, claiming that he was promised compensation as the inventor of Please Call Me.

The matter made its way to the Constitutional Court, which ruled in 2016 that Makate was entitled to payment.

It ordered the parties to negotiate a fair deal. If they could not reach a good-faith agreement, Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub had to determine an equitable amount.

Joosub offered Makate R47 million for the idea, which he rejected.

Makate launched a fresh legal challenge in the Pretoria High Court, obtaining a ruling in his favour in February 2022.

Judge Hughes gave Joosub 30 days to recalculate the compensation the company had offered to pay.

In March, Vodacom applied for leave to appeal Hughes’ High Court judgement, which she has now granted.

In its application, Vodacom argued that Hughes did not correctly apply the Bekker test and that she did not consider whether Joosub’s R47-million offer to Makate was patently inequitable.

The Bekker test states: “an expert valuer’s determination can be reviewed if he or she did not exercise the judgment of a reasonable man and that such was exercised unreasonably, irregularly or wrongly so as to lead to a patently inequitable result.”

Hughes disputed that she did not consider whether Makate’s award was patently inequitable.

However, she said there was a valid question if the way in which she established the patently inequitable result in her judgement goes against the Bekker test, leading to uncertainty and confusion in the law.

“I am persuaded that a compelling reason exists to grant leave to appeal,” Hughes stated.

 

Six bidders qualify for spectrum auction

Source: Reuters

South Africa’s telecoms regulator ICASA said on Monday all six applications it had received from telecom firms have qualified to participate in a radio frequency spectrum auction, a process slowed by years of legislative delay.

ICASA said the qualifying bidders are MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Cell C, Rain Networks and Liquid Telecoms.

“We can officially proclaim the forthcoming March 2022 spectrum auction as an unparalleled milestone in our country’s communications history as this will be the first ever spectrum auction held on our shores,” Keabetswe Modimoeng, chairperson of ICASA, said in a statement.

Operators have waited for years for ICASA to release spectrum licences that are needed to lower data costs, roll out 5G and add network capacity as data demand has surged and smartphone adoption continues to grow.

But the spectrum auction has been stalled by legal challenges that threaten to further delay the auction.

ICASA will conduct a bidder seminar on Feb. 28, followed by mock auctions from March 1 to 3 with the individual bidders.

Thereafter, the auction stage will commence on March 8, with the main online auction taking place from March 10, the regulator said.

 

By Zelda Venter for IOL

In a victory judgment for Please Call Me (PCM) inventor Nkosana Makate the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria on Tuesday found he was shortchanged by Vodacom and that the cellphone giant must go back to the drawing board to come up with a suitable amount.

The court gave Vodacom’s CEO Shameel Joosub one month in which to recalculate what is owed to Makate, using the guidelines issued by the court.

Judge Wendy Hughes made it clear that the calculations used by Joosub earlier in offering Makate R47 million, for what the judge called a brilliant invention, was by far too conservative.

While the judge said Vodacom was in a better position than the court to calculate the true worth of the invention, she gave certain guidelines of what must be taken into account when the amount due to him is recalculated.

Judge Hughes ordered that Makate is entitled to be paid 5% of the total voice revenue generated from the PCM product – starting from March 2001 to March 2021 – and not only for five years, as earlier calculated by Joosub.

She ordered that the total voice revenue must include PCM revenue derived from prepaid, contract (both in bundle and out of bundle) and interconnect fees as set out in Vodacom’s annual financial statements.

“The CEO was disingenuous to project that PCM, as a third party service provider, should only be allocated a duration of five years,” the judge said. She pointed out that Joosub claimed that the R47-million calculation to which he had arrived, was “generous” as well as his conclusion that the invention had generated money for Vodacom over five years.

“The facts demonstrate otherwise. In my view, it is therefore projectable that PCM as a brilliant concept would have had the longevity which it has today. Thus, the eighteen years proposed by Makate (over which time Vodacom has benefitted from PCM) is reasonable and probable.”

The judge added that in regard to the duration to which Vodacom had benefited from the PCM concept, the CEO is to apply the eighteen-year period when he recalculated the amount due to Makate.

As part of his calculations, the CEO must assume that the average call duration of the return calls is two minutes and payment in this respect must not be less than the published Icasa effective rate;

In finding that Vodacom did shortchange Makate, she said he is entitled to 27% of the number of PCM’s sent daily over the years as being revenue generated by the return calls to the PCM.

While it is not yet known what the amount due to Makate will be using the guidelines issued by the court, it will be far more than the R47 million offered to him. Makate, during his application to the high court, said he is owed at least R10-billion.

Makate and Vodacom have been embroiled in litigation over the PCM product for more than two decades.

The Constitutional Court earlier ordered Vodacom to negotiate in good faith and that reasonable compensation had to be paid to Makate for PCM. Unhappy with the R47 million offered to him by the CEO, Makate asked the court to review this amount and to make its own calculations as to which his invention was worth.

But the judge said the CEO is better equipped in making the sums, as he has decades of specialist experience, and is exposed and privy to all the relevant and necessary resources and documents of Vodacom, to compute a reasonable and just compensation for Makate.

Judge Hughes commented that, regrettably, the CEO’s earlier model placed reliance on assumptions which are not backed up by facts or documents.

The judge added that to her, it is clear that Vodacom earlier defied the Constitutional Court order to act and negotiate in good faith.

Icasa backtracks, offers temporary spectrum again

By Sibongile Khumalo for News24

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Icasa issued temporary spectrum to providers to cope with the surge in work-from-home data demands during lockdown.

MTN, for example, reported a 165% increase in data traffic since the start of the pandemic.

Icasa then announced the temporary spectrum would be withdrawn at the end of November.

Vodacom, MTN and Telkom objected, and approached the court to seek an urgent interdict to prevent that from happening.

The case was due to be heard next week.

But on Wednesday, Icasa announced providers could now submit applications for temporary spectrum for a seven-month period ending 30 June 2022, or three months after the termination of the national state of disaster, whichever came first.

Icasa chairperson Keanetswe Modimeng said the invitation showed the authority was “not a spectrum-hoarding regulator”, adding the arrangement was an improved pro-competitive interim measure.

“This provisional arrangement is tailored to deal with any network issues which may affect the provision of services to consumers in the intervening period,” added Modimoeng.

Icasa said companies would have to submit their applications by no later than 17 November 2021.

“The authority believes that it is in the best interest of the public to have a provisional spectrum licensing arrangement in place over the next seven months. This will enable all other inherent licensing processes to conclude while mitigating any possible service disruptions.”

The auction of permanent high-demand spectrum was halted after Telkom and e.tv obtained an interdict against the process, citing flaws in Icasa’s process.

Icasa said it was still confident it could hold the auction in March 2022.

 

Vodacom releases VodaPay Super App

The arrival of Vodacom’s VodaPay Super App is set to be a game changer for driving financial inclusion and economic growth in South Africa. Developed by Vodacom Financial Services in partnership with leading global digital lifestyle services platform Alipay, VodaPay is an all-encompassing mobile payments solution that has been customised to meet the specific lifestyle and payment needs of consumers, businesses and tech developers.

Vodacom Financial Services is inviting developers and businesses of all sizes to join the VodaPay ecosystem by building their very own Mini Programs. This allows them to leverage off world-class technology to accelerate digital engagement and increase access to market. The VodaPay Super App offers endless possibilities in acquiring new customers, trading, and advertising through these Mini Programs. These third-party downloadable sub applications run within the VodaPay Super App and are available to all consumers to enhance their lifestyle. Best of all, building a Mini Program on the platform is quick, easy and cost-effective.

Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group Chief Executive Officer, says, “Since we announced the VodaPay Super App in July last year, we have made significant strides in developing this technology solution that will transform the fintech ecosystem in South Africa. Our powerful partnership with Alipay strengthens our access to world-class technology and puts us on par with leading global digital counterparts. If we are to drive financial inclusion, and go even further together, we want to offer the capabilities of the VodaPay Mini Programs to as many businesses, of all sizes, across multiple industries as possible. Through collaboration in establishing an inclusive mobile payment ecosystem, we can change the economic landscape for the benefit of the entire country.”

A world of possibilities

Whether a VodaPay user is looking to pay bills, send money, play games, order takeaways or shop online, there’s likely to be a Mini Program for it, conveniently located in one digital space.

Mariam Cassim, Chief Officer of Vodacom Financial and Digital Services, says: “This is the perfect opportunity for businesses and developers to establish a presence in this hi-tech, scalable digital mall. They can access millions of potential customers every day. While VodaPay will be accessible to customers on any mobile network, it will be zero-rated for all Vodacom customers. This is to further enhance digital inclusion in South Africa.

Approximately 70 businesses have already signed up or committed to build their own Mini Programs in the Super App, including leading brands such as Makro, Builders Warehouse, Clicks, Edgars, Game, Exclusive Books, Big Blue, Flightsite, Dollar Thrifty, Westpack, Petzone, One Cart, Netflorist, Kit Kat Cash & Carry, Droppa, Planet54, Jacaranda FM, KFC, Booking.com, TravelStart, Hannah Lavery, Michelle Ludek, To Be Gift Boxes and Afritrails to name a few. The potential for more sign-ups is vast.

This includes leading retailersfast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, food outlets, transport and companies from a wide range of other industries that have already started building their Mini Programs. The potential of the Super App has been appreciated by leading online travel and shopping brands too.

Vodacom Financial Services has fully integrated the Mini Program technology into the South African payment environment to ensure interoperability within the local market. VodaPay provides the infrastructure on which merchants and consumers transact, managing all the login, authorisation and payments processing aspects of their transactions. Businesses also have access to next-gen recommendation engines and data analytics to deliver personalised offers to customers as well as simplified checkout options, and advertising capabilities to drive sales.

The VodaPay Super App offers consumers a single point of entry and payment platform, with no additional download required. Mini Programs can accept both physical and online payments from customers with the in-app VodaPay digital wallet. A choice is available for customers of paying upfront, with rewards, or with payment terms such as buy-now-pay-later and nano credit offerings.

Opportunities for developers and businesses

The multitude of smaller applications within the VodaPay Super App brings diversity to the Mini Program offering and increases opportunities for creative start-ups and developers. As there is a single ecosystem on which to build applications, developers only need to manage one code base for both iOS and Android devices while benefiting from the exceptional tools, services and support from VodaPay’s technology. This reduces the time, costs and administration when submitting apps for approval and results in faster development cycles speeding up access to market,” added Cassim.

“The adoption of digital technology is critical for businesses if they are to respond to change quickly and remain relevant in these uncertain times. VodaPay Mini Programs can accelerate the digital engagement of a business in a cost-effective manner, expanding the possibility of financial inclusion. As we position ourselves as a leading pan-African technology company, we are excited to see the innovation from businesses and developers who will partner with us in using this technology to connect people to markets, and to build and support a resilient, dynamic, digital economy,” added Joosub.

Vodacom Financial Services and VodaPay’s technical team will be offering merchants and developers training on how best to use the technology at their disposal. Registrations are currently open. Businesses who want to reap the benefits of the VodaPay Super App ecosystem, can click here to register. Developers who want to showcase their skills and become part of the Mini Programs’ ground-breaking technology, should click here.

By Ntando Thukwana for Business Insider SA

Walmart-owned retailer Massmart has big plans for mobile shopping in South Africa, including its own new apps and becoming an “anchor tenant” on Vodacom’s new so-called super app.

The app, built in partnership with the digital payment group Alipay (which is part of the Chinese behemoth Alibaba), will offer mobile shopping and music streaming as well as a large range of services, including the ability to pay bills, send money to friends, and even borrow money for a small business or buy insurance via your phone. The super app is due to be launched by mid-2021.

Vodacom’s 44 million subscribers will initially be able to buy directly from Makro and Builders Warehouse on the app, and Game will later be added.

Richard Inskip, Massmart’s chief operating office, said that the Vodacom partnership will widen its customer base.

“It gives us access to a lot more customers than we currently have. We believe that we would get a lot more younger, tech-savvy customers to come to us (via the Vodacom app),” said Inskip.

He says that Massmart wanted to effectively become an anchor tenant on the Vodacom app, before its competitors.

“We would want that in advance of our competitors like Takealot. We believe that we’d be better positioned to serve the customers,” he said.

Massmart also recently partnered with OneCart and UberEats to expand its reach, and plans to introduce its own shopping apps.

Driving the retailer’s digital plans is Sylvester John, who joined Massmart last year. He was previously Walmart North America’s vice president for so-called “last mile delivery” – products’ journey from the warehouse shelf to customer doorstep.

“We are expanding into mobile apps and over time (will adopt) a mobile-first strategy. A large percentage of our current customers access our site by phone,” John said.

To improve its “last mile” operations, the company is partnering with global logistics platform Far Eye, who will be “working to centralise all customer deliveries onto a single sophisticated platform”.

Massmart estimates that it is now the second-biggest ecommerce player in South Africa – after Takealot.

Its online sales breached R1 billion for the first time last year. Builders’ Warehouse’s online sales more than doubled, while Game (78%) and Makro (42%) also saw strong growth.

However, this could not save the rest of the group, and overall sales declined by almost 8% to R86.5 billion over the past year.

While the company says its online operations are profitable, as a group, Massmart suffered a headline loss of R924 million last year – albeit smaller than 2019’s loss of almost R1.2 billion.

This beat expectations and, along with its new plans to sell some of its brands, sent the company’s share price rocketing by 20% on Monday.

Massmart was last trading at R51, almost at its best level over the past year – and 190% higher than its low point of below R19 in July 2020.

 

Source: MyBroadband

Vodacom has taken over all upgrades, credit vetting and collections for Cell C’s contract customers after they were moved to Vodacom’s network, an industry insider said.

Cell C started to migrate its contract and broadband subscribers to Vodacom’s network in mid-December, a process which was expected to last two months.

The decision took many people by surprise as Cell C is building a “virtual network” in partnership with MTN and has a national roaming agreement with the mobile operator in place.

It was widely speculated that Cell C sold its contract and broadband subscriber base to Vodacom in a deal which involved Comm Equipment Company (CEC).

CEC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Label Telecoms which was founded in 2015 with a contract to supply and finance all devices supplied by Cell C to the market.

Blue Label Telecoms, which owns 45% of Cell C, recently said the business model of this financing arrangement indirectly exposes it to the credit risk of Cell C.

Blue Label Telecoms’ management, however, said it has effectively mitigated this risk through the operational model used and the “very high collateral requirements” which are in place.

As part of this agreement, Blue Label Telecoms and CEC have the right to sell Cell C’s contract customer base in the event of a default by Cell C.

Blue Label and CEC agreement with Cell-C

Considering Cell C’s dismal financial situation and the strange decision to move its contract customers Vodacom and not MTN, it is no surprise that many industry players thought a sale took place.

Cell C, Vodacom, and Blue Label Telecoms have, however, vehemently denied that any sale of subscribers took place.

Instead, Cell C said the migration of its customers to Vodacom forms part of its “network roaming model” which will see it become South Africa’s largest wholesale buyer of network capacity and infrastructure services from Vodacom and MTN.

While Cell C and Vodacom are trying to make the migration look like a simple roaming agreement, many industry players are disputing this.

One industry insider told MyBroadband Vodacom has taken over all upgrades, credit vetting, and collections for Cell C’s contract customers as part of the agreement.

This should not come as a surprise. TechFinancials reported in October 2020 that CEC planned to subcontract Vodacom to handle its credit vetting, call centre, billing, and collections for Cell C’s contract customers.

TechFinancials further reported that after the migration to Vodacom has been completed, Cell C customers will see Vodacom as their mobile provider.

MyBroadband can confirm that this is indeed the case. Instead of showing Cell C as their carrier name, contract subscribers are now shown Vodacom as their provider (see screenshot below).

Cell C contract subscriber home screen

With Vodacom reportedly taking over numerous services for Cell C’s contract subscribers and also serving all their network needs, these subscribers are now close to being Vodacom subscribers.

It is currently not clear if Cell C is still providing any services to its contract subscribers, or whether they are now essentially Vodacom subscribers, albeit unofficially.

MyBroadband asked Cell C for further information about its relationship with Vodacom, but the company would not provide any details.

Instead, it said “these commercial agreements, their existence and their terms are confidential between Cell C and the counter parties to the contract”.

Vodacom would also not answer any questions regarding its relationship, saying it is “contractually precluded from commenting on this”.

 

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