Vodacom declares dividend as consumers fume

Vodacom declares dividend as consumers fume

Vodacom shares are up by 2% after they declared a dividend of 280c per share.

Headlines earnings per share increased 656 cents for the year ended 31st march 2011. Revenue increased to R61.2bn from R58.54bn as group free cash flow grew 22.4% to R8.83bn.

It’s is staggering to imagine the amount of cash this business generates but quite easy to explain. The number of mobile users in South Africa grew exponentially in the past two years while Vodacom’s investment in infrastructure has remained very low as a percentage of expenses. Exactly how much they are spending on infrastructure development and maintenance remains a bit of a mystery as they don’t disclose the exact numbers. So the way that they make these staggering profits is by signing up customers who desperately need cellphones and then they sweat their assets until their networks and infrastructure almost grind to a halt. They invest in as little as possible to squeeze every last cent of profit from the business so that they can make as much profit as possible and earn multi-million rand incentives at the end of the year.

What’s wrong with that?, you ask. What’s wrong is that today it is impossible to drive from Sandton to Johannesburg without dropping a call four times. It’s impossible to get decent data connections in more than 87% of the country. The cost of the phone calls on our mobile networks is exorbitantly expensive and totally out of line internationally. Vodacom is not the only culprit, but the other cellphone companies as well. The shareholders who will receive this generous payout are all very happy. Happy that they have been complicit in one of the greatest mass exploitations of consumers in the history of this country. Vadacom should be taking their ill gotten profits and re investing it into their infrastructure so that we can receive the services that we are paying for, so that our dropped calls can stop and we don’t have to re-dial twenty times a day, and further bolster their coffers, and so that we can use cellular services for what they were intended, to increase productivity. Every time my call drops I can see in my minds eye how Pieter Uys made another R0,0000001. Every time my 3G connection drops I wonder if I would have a decent 3G connection if I lived in the same street as Mr Uys? I suppose he would have a cellphone tower that works near him.

What is it with this corporate culture? Why is it never enough? Why do you have to literally steal from your customers to make billions when you can make hundreds of millions in an honorable way? I am ashamed of the fact that Vodacom is a South African company and I am ashamed of Mr Pieter Uys and his board. I am ashamed of the Vodacom shareholders. I am disgusted by the wholesale rape and pillaging of consumers in South Africa by Vodacom and companies like them.

Vodacom oversubscribed

Vodacom oversubscribed

Business Day reported today that Vodacom is going to reduce the download speed from 3G to 2G for Blackberry users who exceed 100MB per month.

This explains why other Vodacom users have been suffering constant disconnections and slow download speeds. The free data services provided to Blackberry users has created a shortage of bandwidth and Vodacom clearly cannot cope with the demand.

For the past few weeks the 3G service from Vodacom has deteriorated to the point where 3 out of 5 times a decent connection is impossible. It is time that consumers talk with their feet and switch to one of the other service providers. We have been complaining long enough.

It will be interesting to see what will happen if Vodacom is sued for contravening the CPA. It could be a watershed case that will shake up the mobile industry and perhaps hold these fatcat monopolies to account.

Who’s going first?

Cloud computing – SA in danger of being left behind

Marthinus Strydom - CIO and Marketing Director of McCarthy Motor Group

Cloud computing is a rapidly growing software service trend globally, however South Africa is in danger of being left behind.

According to Marthinus Strydom, CIO and Marketing Director, McCarthy Motor Group, “Government needs to take serious action against the companies that continue to exploit and overcharge South Africans for bandwidth.”

“As cloud computing applications become more sophisticated and utilise streaming capabilities, substantial bandwidth, sustained connectivity and reasonably priced internet is essential to maintaining business function, especially when one considers that 37% of emerging SMEs do not have internet connectivity1.”

Figures from Arthur Goldstuck’s, WorldWideWorx revealed that in 2009 only 10.8% of the South Africa population had access to the internet, and according to The Internet Society of SA (ISOC-ZA) broadband access available from Telkom, is still 286% more expensive than a comparative Egyptian service2.

“While steps in the right direction have been made by Government and the industry which will see internet and bandwidth quality improve in 2011, more needs to be done.”

“Telkom’s upgrade of the SAT3 cable and the launch of Seacom earlier this year have set the ball rolling. However, the Seacom cable is only using a fraction of its capacity because of lack of competition within the South African market and it is estimated that it will be a further 5 years before Seacom operates at capacity3.”

Strydom adds: “I disagree with many local experts who doubt that cloud computing will not become mainstream,” he adds. “The pure convenience of being able to store and access data centrally from anywhere using any device is a strong business driver.”

Cloud computing is a rapidly growing software service trend that has the ability to transfer day to day services such as email, data storage, back-ups and resource sharing onto the web. This offers South African business the opportunity to cut is operations costs significantly while leveraging off the superior infrastructures and security of established cloud computing service providers. I.e. Google, IS, Symantec etc.

“Cloud computing will allow for less pressure on company resources and business will only pay for the services they use,” adds Strydom.

As a result, South African business is hungrily pursuing cloud computing, with 26% having already deployed a software as a service security solution via the cloud/internet. According to Gartner, companies will invest $112bn in cloud computing services over the next 5 years. The move is inevitable despite concerns around safety, security and data integrity4.

“According to Gartner, global revenue from cloud computing is expected to reach $68bn by the end of the year5. Cloud computing will continue to grow and influence hardware development as ‘form follows function’. The hard drive will be replaced by the solid state drive, a superior technology but currently offers less capacity for data storage because leading markets are embracing the services cloud computing offers.”

Cloud Computing in South Africa

So maybe this doesn’t concern you right now but it will. In about 12 months.

Cloud Computing is Web-based processing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices (such as smartphones) on demand over the Internet. Cloud Computing is probably one of the fastest growing development sectors in the world due to the expected demand. There are many pseudo cloud computing services already available, such as Evernote and DropBox. Both these services allow you to store data in the “cloud”.  Many pundits are betting against Cloud Computing becoming mainstream but they have it wrong. The pure convenience of being able to store your data centrally and being able to access your data from anywhere using any device is fantastic. You don’t have to use your email as your filing system, as most people that travel a lot are forced to do. You don’t have to worry about redundancy and disaster recovery. It’s all taken care of.

That’s all about data storage. What about using applications on the web and storing the data in the cloud? Google are certainly front-runners at this point with their suite of applications that include Google Docs etc. No doubt that these aren’t really “serious” applications yet. They are more for convenience and anytime, anywhere access. But boy, there are some really cool “Cloud” applications out there already! PicNik was recently acquired by Google. It’s a fully fledged photo editing application that runs from your web browser. There are literally thousands of start ups that are building Cloud Computing applications that will be launched into the market in the next few months.

So why is this important? Because the hardware companies are following suit. It’s a known fact that “hardware follows software” in much the same way as “form follows function”. In this case the guys in Cupertino (Apple) are very big influencers. The iPhone was the first, the iPad the second and now the ultra portable Macbook Air. These devices really don’t have hard drives. They are primarily for consumption, although some would argue that the Air is not. The iPad can hardly store anything more than your applications, music and photo’s. If you want to store stuff then you must get an online storage service such as DropBox. The Macbook Air is not much different. It comes with either 64GB or 128GB Flash storage. Solid state storage is in, hard-drives are out. It’s just a matter of time before computing will change forever, where you will use applications over the web and store your data in the cloud. The Netbook is another example of a “dumb terminal” that can almost only access the Internet.

The reason why this is particularly important in South Africa is because of our really poor connectivity. South Africa’s Internet connectivity must rate as one of the worst (from a performance point of view) and one of the most expensive. Our ADSL coverage is very poor, WIMAX is only provided in major metropolitan areas and 3G is prohibitively expensive, if you can get connected.  I am concerned that our connectivity to the Internet will not be able to able to keep the pace with international computing developments. If devices such as the Macbook Air become completely Internet dependent and the bandwidth requirements are extensive then we will certainly not be able to use these devices effectively. Netflix is a subscription-based movie and television show rental service that offers media to subscribers via Internet streaming and it is not available in South Africa probably due to licensing issues. Even if Netflix was available in South Africa we would not be able to use it due to the poor international bandwidth in this country. Let’s face it, our broadband sucks.

Watch how hardware developments are going to take quantum leaps in the next year and watch how we, at the southern tip of Africa, are going lag behind. Unless the South Africa government takes some serious action against the companies that continue to exploit and overcharge us for bandwidth and unless the government facilitates serious investment to get more and better bandwidth, we are in going to be in real trouble.

The Future of Interactive Mobile Computing

The Future of Interactive Mobile Computing

At TEDIndia, Pranav Mistry demos several tools that help the physical world interact with the world of data — including a deep look at his SixthSense device and a new, paradigm-shifting paper “laptop”.

In an onstage Q&A, Mistry says he’ll open-source the software behind SixthSense, to open its possibilities to all.


iPad for Business

iPad for Business

I have been searching for the ultimate mobility solution for the past 5 years with very little success. I think I have owned almost every possible piece of technology that had any promise of providing a mobility solution, from the very first Palm to the iPhone. I have owned Tablet PC’s such as the original Motion to the very latest IBM x200. Everyone of these devices has promise and then after using it for a few days I realized that they were not good enough and that they would not be able to provide me with the functionality I needed to become truly mobile.

I almost gave up… and then arrived the iPad.

Man! was I excited! Steve Jobs didn’t mention one word about the iPad being designed as a business tool, but I saw the potential. Portable, battery life, 3g, Wifi, thousand of application, unbeatable interface. This is it!!

Well I wasn’t disappointed. I realized quickly that it wasn’t perfect either. It took me a few days to find the perfect setup and that is what I would like to share with you today. How to make your iPad the perfect business tool.

3G is essential

Forget about what anyone says. Without 3G you will become terribly frustrated. You will constantly be looking for wifi hotspots and it will cost you way more money than the 3G, in the end. You can trick your iPad into thinking it has a wifi connection by using your iPhone as a wifi router. Do this if you don’t want to buy the 3G iPad.

Business Apps for the iPad

Dropbox is the easiest way to sync and share your files online and across computers.

An FTP client for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. View and edit HTML/CSS/JS/PHP/ASP, or other files on your server with its built in editor to change your website from anywhere. View images and documents (JPG, PDF, DOC, XLS, PPT, etc) too.

Dragon Dictation
Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application powered by Dragon NaturallySpeaking that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. In fact, it’s up to five (5) times faster than typing on the keyboard.

Print direct to most WiFi printers, or to ALL printers and ANY document type via your Mac/PC, even over 3G. View, store & print email, attachments, documents, files, photos, contacts, web pages and copied items from other Apps, on your iPad.

Mockups provides designers and developers with the ability to quickly draft wireframes for their websites and iPhone/iPad apps. Created exclusively for the iPad, iMockups combines a beautiful interface with intuitive functionality, taking full advantage of the breakthrough touchscreen device.

The Wall Street Journal (Free)
Experience The Wall Street Journal’s award winning coverage, blending the best of print and online. Touch the stories that matter to you most, get latest news updates and market data throughout the day, and save your favorite articles and sections for later.

Pages is the most beautiful word processing app ever designed for a mobile device. It’s the application you know and love for the Mac, completely reworked from the ground up for iPad.

iThoughtsHD (Free/Paid App)
iThoughtsHD is a mind mapping tool for the iPad. Mindmapping enables you to visually organise your thoughts, ideas and information.

Keynote is the most powerful presentation app ever designed for a mobile device. It’s the application you know and love on the Mac, but completely reworked from the ground up for iPad.