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Bruising best network battle between Vodacom and MTN

In recent years, Vodacom and MTN have invested billions into their networks. Their aim is to have the best mobile network in South Africa, and the battle to make this claim is heating up. In the latest scuffle, Vodacom defended its claim to have “SA’s Best Network for 3 years in a row”, following an Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa complaint by MTN.

Instead of using real-world network quality tests to back its “SA’s Best Network” claim, Vodacom relied on the SAcsi ratings. The South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) uses customer satisfaction surveys to measure the quality of products and services. Vodacom previously relied on results from speed tests by Ookla and MyBroadband for its “best network” claims.

When these speed test platforms showed that Vodacom no longer had the best network, the company moved to the SAcsi for its claims. This created a situation where real-world network quality tests from MyBroadband showed MTN had the best network, while Vodacom claims to have the best network based on a consumer survey. Vodacom and MTN’s advertisements, which ran within a week of each other, are shown below.

MTN’s complaint

MTN’s ASA complaint against Vodacom focused on the fact that the “best network” and “fastest network” claims are interpreted as a network performance claim. All previous “SA’s Best Network” claims were communicated in the context of network performance, such as speed, coverage, and dropped calls. The focus was often on metrics such as download speed and upload speed, as reported by Ookla and MyBroadband.

“It would appear that Vodacom has sought to justify its network performance claim by relying on whichever entity was able to provide satisfactory evidence,” said MTN. “The decision to do so now [using SAcsi results] suggests a deliberate attempt to retain an established network performance claim by confusing it with a consumer perception poll.”

Vodacom responds

Vodacom said its “Best” claims should be considered in the context of the advertising as a whole. It added that the world “Best” is immediately followed by an asterisk, which refers to the disclaimer “*As rated by SAcsi 2017”.

Vodacom added that there are no references to speed, coverage, uploading, and streaming of videos online, voice calls, or dropped calls.

Vodacom billboard where it changed the claim’s reference to SAcsi.

ASA ruling

The ASA agreed with Vodacom’s argument, saying the Vodacom advertisement is not misleading or dishonest. The ASA subsequently dismissed MTN’s complaint.

The best network in South Africa

This ruling creates a situation where “best network” claims can be made based on network performance results and on consumer perception surveys. SAcsi founder Adre Schreuder told MyBroadband he believes the SAcsi ratings provide an accurate reflection of “network quality”.

“The SAcsi includes network quality – amongst others – as part of our definition of customer satisfaction,” said Schreuder. He said their measure is aligned with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) model. “In addition to network quality, this model includes the quality of service as part of the value proposition and more intangible components that reflect on the quality the customer experiences in all the different touch points and channels (retail, online, app, social media, web chat, etc),” he said.

MyBroadband’s speed test results[1], which are based on real-world network performance tests, show that MTN has the best network in South Africa.

This ostensibly means there can now be two companies – in this case Vodacom and MTN – which can claim to have the best network at the same time.

Now read: The best mobile network in South Africa[2]

References

  1. ^ MyBroadband’s speed test results (mybroadband.co.za)
  2. ^ The best mobile network in South Africa (mybroadband.co.za)

Coinbase to send data on 13,000 users to IRS

Coinbase said it will comply with a court order to release user data on over 13,000 customers to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS initially ordered Coinbase to produce records relating to 500,000 customers, an order which the cryptocurrency exchange fought in court. This court battle resulted in an order for Coinbase to produce information on 13,000 customers to the IRS.

Coinbase has issued notifications to affected users and released a statement on its website[1] reagding the situation. “We are writing to let you know that the above-described court order requires us to produce information specific to your account,” Coinbase told customers. “If you have concerns about this, we encourage you to seek legal advice from an attorney promptly.

Coinbase expects to produce the information covered by the court’s order within 21 days.”

The exchange will provide the IRS with the taxpayer ID, name, birth date, address, and transaction records for each user affected by the order.

Now read: Coinbase to add SegWit support[2]

References

  1. ^ statement on its website (support.coinbase.com)
  2. ^ Coinbase to add SegWit support (mybroadband.co.za)

What to watch out for at Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress, the wireless industry’s biggest conference, begins next week in Barcelona, where more than 100,000 people are set to see the latest smartphones, artificial intelligence devices and autonomous drones exhibited by roughly 2,300 companies. The event is also the industry’s largest networking opportunity for executives, bankers, analysts and the like to talk shop — and potential deals. Some 5,500 CEOs, among them Deutsche Telekom AG’s Tim Hoettges and Vodafone Group Plc’s Vittorio Colao, will jostle for airtime discussing the major trends shaping the industry such as cybersecurity, the arrival of ultrafast fifth-generation mobile networks and blockchain.

Here are the big themes likely to dominate the event.

Samsung to Sony in device battle

MWC has long been a venue for companies to show off their latest mobile devices and vie for consumer attention. This year, Samsung is back to unveil its latest flagship phone, widely expected to be the Galaxy S9. Sony created buzz when it posted a video on Twitter last Sunday for what looks like it could be a new Xperia device with curves, and gadget blogs such as Wired have speculated whether foldable phones will make their debut this year.

HMD Global Oy is expected to present more Nokia-branded phones after making headlines with a reboot of the iconic Nokia 3310 in 2017. There’s more than just phones: There will be dozens of smartwatches, tablets, and drones debuted at MWC, as device makers push wearables.

M&A is Back

After a lull through most of 2017, deals chatter is abuzz again. Vodafone’s move for Liberty Global Plc’s cable assets in continental Europe will be a key talking point, along with what Liberty’s John Malone might do with any proceeds from that sale.

Scandinavia has also been busy, with Danish phone carrier TDC A/S being bought by a group of pension funds after announcing a now-defunct deal with Sweden’s Modern Times Group AB. And Telenor ASA, the Nordic region’s biggest carrier, has received interest for its businesses in central and eastern Europe. It’s all part of the continued drive by carriers for scale and the ability to offer bundles of mobile, fixed and TV services, to attract and retain customers while allowing them to squeeze more profits. “We’ve got a fairly serious realignment going on,” said Richard Price, head of telecoms, media and technology at MUFG in London. “The fixed-mobile convergence theme is back big time.”

The Buzzwords: VR, AI, blockchain

The wireless industry’s bet is that emerging technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and blockchain can help create new products and fresh revenue streams as traditional sales wane.

There’s hope that AI can help make networks more efficient by more accurately predicting demand, and cut service costs by replacing human workers with chatbots. Telefonica SA has already used blockchain technology — the ledger system that underpins Bitcoin — to sell loans in Germany, and is exploring how the technology can be deployed for more corporate processes. VR devices have been around at MWC for a few years now, but they largely continue to occupy the enthusiast video-gamer niche.

The ambition for device-makers is that as the products become more powerful, smaller and lighter, VR use cases will mushroom, luring a greater part of the population to actually buy them.

5G Gets Real(er)

Recent conferences have been awash with talk and pledges around 5G, the next-generation wireless network technology that promises speeds 10 times faster and lower lag times in transferring data. This will allow for the rise of driverless cars on highways and potentially even surgeries in far-flung, remote places by a doctor in an urban hospital. While most mobile-phone companies are targeting 2020 to start rolling out the technology, issues like network standards, high spectrum prices, as well as interference from rain, trees and fog continue to pose problems.

Analysts expect to hear more on how the technology can be deployed beyond the autonomous vehicles at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang or connected refrigerators, and how carriers can turn 5G — which requires massive investments — into hard cash. “We haven’t seen a huge amount of specific user cases that say ‘This is what you can do with 5G that you couldn’t do before,'” said Chris Woodland, a partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants in London. “There’ll be discussion about whether there are some more compelling, revenue-generating user cases than first envisaged.”

Connected machines

5G also offers new opportunities for the so-called Internet of Things market. The likes of BT Group Plc, Vodafone and Telefonica are trying to sell products and services to companies by helping them digitize their processes and hook factories up to the internet so they work more efficiently. They’re betting on this corporate market mainly because they know they’ve already lost major growth opportunities linked to consumers to the web giants — Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

Deutsche Telekom’s Hoettges has said he sees the average person owning six devices hooked to the internet by 2020 and millions of electronic SIM cards making it into cars, factories and machines across Germany.

MWC will see companies from a new ecosystem to service this emerging business area showcasing their latest IoT and related technology — think cybersecurity firms pitching how to best safeguard your machines once they’re online

Now read: Samsung Galaxy S8 Android 8.0 rollout resumed[1]

References

  1. ^ Samsung Galaxy S8 Android 8.0 rollout resumed (mybroadband.co.za)