September 9th, 2006


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flexopower.JPGI got the most interesting speaker gift this trip: Flexopower, a portable solar battery charger for mobile phone made by a company in Johannesburg. I havent got the time to play with it but it sound pretty cool. Hey, now I can continue to make phone calls under the hot sun!

I also visited a very cool company by Rael Lissoos called Magnolia Wireless. It was tons of fun talking to Rael and I spend a whole morning with Rael while he drive me around and showed me some of his project. You can find more info about Rael on Esther Dyson’s flickr :-)

Notes on South Africa:

– There are 3 mobile operators: VodaCom, MTN and CellC. VodaCom, is the JV between the incumbent Telkom (51%) and Vodafone (20+%) (how surprising :-) and is the largest operator.

– They have both 2G and 3G network. For value-added service, VodCom offering HSDPA as well as DVB-H with 16 TV channels. Average ARPU seem to be pretty good at around US$50. (versa US$12 for fixed line).

– There are about 25M mobile subscribers out of 46M population.

– Internet access is expensive: on average, people are paying about US$35-40 for dialup access. One of the reasons is that South Africa has the most expensive international bandwidth at US$11,000 per mbps (other countries along the west coast of Africa is paying on average US$2,000 per mbps).

– There is this mobile app called MXit that is taking South Africa by storm. Basically, it an IM client….Er, what so special? Well, SMS cost about US$0.10 each and the data plan for 1mb cost only a small fraction of that. So the obvious choice is to dump SMS and use IM on their phone. According to a SMS Text, MXit now exceed 1M users, growing at 10,000 new users per day! A story of a simple idea at a right place at the right time…

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