SADC Roaming update

There are approximately 5.6m mobile roaming* users in Africa (or 1.3% of the subscriber base) – this is low when compared to 15% in the USA or 17% in Europe. The case for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is only slightly healthier – of the 125m subscriber in 15 member countries, 3.1m roam (2.8%) – the assumption is that is around 4% of the operator revenues.

High roaming costs are not normally under the control of the subscribers’ mobile provider – the retail tariff is largely determined by the IOT (Inter Operator Tariff) which is normally around 80% of the tariff, with the subscribers network applying a 25% mark-up. Using some global benchmarks, the roaming call tariff could be as low as R1.47 per minute, if costs are deemed as 72c for origination, 35c for transit and 40c for termination. South African roaming users pay anywhere between R6 (very limited) and R38 per minute, dependent on network provider and country of roaming. Fortunately the rates for SADC states are lower than European rates (typically R23pm) at around R8pm. More terrifying however is the fact that South African subscribers mobile data roaming costs are typically R108 -128 per MB – 10x those of European data roaming rates, and country independent.

There is however much room to reduce these costs or eliminate roaming costs entirely, as was done in 2007 by Celtel (now Airtel) in 3 East African countries. More recently, multiple network operators have collaborated in these countries (MTN Uganda, Safaricom Kenya and Vodacom Tanzania) to offer an alternative –this is probably due to the fact that the networks witnessed a 7x increase in roaming subscribers! Data rates of around R10 (€1) per MB should easily be achievable

Whilst users may choose “Plastic” roaming (use of multiple country SIM cards), RICA type regulations realistically hamper this. Voice gateway regulation/signalling standards also hamper operator infrastructure harmonisation, but the worst arguments for SADC are i) a need for a cross regional regulatory body or ii) that all operators are required to sign up. It only takes one operator per country to put their hand up to promote something similar in SADC. Whether they are permitted to by the government (who enjoy taxing the profits they make) is another country specific issue.

Alternatively in the short term, the recommendations may be to

i) dramatically reduce roaming tariffs to negate the need for SADC tariff regulation which is very unlikely in the foreseeable future,

ii) provide consumers greater tariff transparency to limit “bill shock”, or

iii) for consumers to raise their voice lobby for a lower cost of voice/data!

Chat to us about voice & data roaming – we are working on innovative solutions that exist around the globe to hopefully bring relief to SADC subscribers.

Alternatively you can wait for regulators and operators to make the move – but you will wait a long time.

*Roaming in this post refers to “Away” roaming between various countries operators as opposed to “Home” roaming which is between local network operators within the subscribers country of residence.

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European Call Roaming update

Mobile operators in Europe face a further cut in their revenues after a European Commission ruling to reduce retail prices for roaming calls – effective 1st July 2011

European mobile subscribers opting for the EU-regulated "Eurotariff" will pay no more than €0.35 per minute for calls made and €0.11 cents per minute for calls received while abroad in the EU. This is the last in the series of regulated price cuts under the current EU Roaming Regulation, which expires in June 2012.

South African’s abroad pay around R23per minute (€2.30!) for calls made and R5per minute (€0.50!) for calls received whilst in Europe (5x the price!). Rates vary per destination and based on what you mobile service operator charges.


European Data Roaming – July2014!

The European Commission has unveiled plans to make calling, texting and data services cheaper for European travellers by opening the roaming market to increased competition. If the plan becomes law, from 1 July 2014 consumers would be able to sign a cheaper mobile roaming contract for use abroad, separate from their contract with their operator at home, while still keeping the same number.

Meanwhile, mobile operators, including Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), would be given the right to use other operators’ networks in other EU member states at regulated wholesale prices. The structural measures are to be preceded by a progressive lowering of retail price caps on voice and SMS services and the introduction of a new retail price cap for roaming data services.

This opens up a whole new market for MVNOs, who until now have been unable to play aggressively on data roaming.

The emergence of many strong pan-European MVNOs has hurdles; historical difficulties inherent in obtaining multi-market wholesale deals with network operators, the large back-office asset duplication involved and other scaling issues that are unlikely to change in the near future.

For big operators, the biggest blow is not so much the opening up of the roaming market to more competition but, for the first time, the introduction of retail price caps on roaming data services. For a long time data services have been the only growing segment of the mobile market across Europe, helping to keep operators afloat as revenues from voice and messaging have shrunk

At the end of 2010, it cost an average of €1.06 per MB to download data in another member state, though some operators were charging as much as €12. The Commission plans to cap charges at 50 cents per MB by 1 July 2014. South African users pay around R108-R128 per MB.


Apple security flaw – update

Apple has plugged a hole in the software that runs iPhones, iPads and iPods which allows hackers to take remote control of those devices. The security flaw came to light nine days ago as http://www.jailbreakme.com released code that Apple customers can use to modify the iOS operating system that runs those devices through a process known as "jail-breaking”.

Some Apple customers choose to jail-break their devices so they can download and run applications that are not approved by Apple, or use iPhone phones on networks of carriers that are not approved by Apple.

The jail-breaking code exploited a vulnerability in iOS that had not previously been disclosed. Its release gave criminal hackers a blueprint they could use to build malicious software that would exploit the vulnerability. Now that the security patch has been released, Apple customers will be protected against any such malware as long as they install the software updates on their equipment.

Please accept recent security updates from Apple inc.!


Android – Banking Trojan Alert!

The Trojan spyware application known as Zitmo, which is designed to steal people’s financial data, has now been altered to target devices running the Android mobile operating system, according to InformationWeek.

“The malware poses as a banking activation application,” says Axelle Apvrille, a senior anti-virus analyst and researcher for Fortinet, in a blog post. “In the background, it listens to all incoming SMS messages and forwards them to a remote Web server.”

That’s a security risk, as some banks now send mTANs – mobile transaction authentication numbers, which is banking-speak for one-time passwords for authenticating transactions – via SMS.

By intercepting these passwords, the Zeus-botnet-using criminal gang behind Zitmo can not only create fraudulent money transfers, but verify them.

The malware disguised itself as the banking security app Rapport, made by Trusteer, says Digital ID News.

Trusteer discovered the spread of the malware in late May and early June and have taken the supporting servers offline.

While mTANs are used mostly by European banks as a second layer of security, the spread of this variant shows that attackers are attempting to break into dual-factor authentication, which could pose problems for other types of mobile banking platforms.


Android Users – tips to limit data usage

Applications, System Settings & Software – 3 key areas you need to look at

Applications

For the most part, you should turn off any background updates. Apps that pull weather data, or news stories are your targets here. Just look through the settings and you should find a way to deactivate this functionality. You can always update them manually.

Twitter clients are also a big user of data! If you have multiple clients installed, you may actually be downloading the same updates multiple times. Make sure you turn off updates on clients you don’t use frequently. If you can stand to turn them off on your main client, all the better. You can always manually refresh. Alternatively, just crank up the update interval to only ping Twitter every few hours.

Many apps also send usage details back to analytics firms. There is usually a toggle for this in the app’s settings. If you’re lucky, you may find that some of your apps have the ability to download data only when on Wi-Fi.

System Settings

On the system settings front, there are a few things you can do to reduce your data usage. Some of this will come with drawbacks, and it’s up to you how much pain you can deal with. First, check your Wi-Fi sleep policy. Go to your settings, then to Wireless and networks, then to Wi-Fi Settings. Hit the Menu button, and tap Advanced. Check and make sure Wi-Fi sleep policy is set to Never. You don’t want to have the phone switching to mobile data when you leave it in sleep mode. There might be a small battery life hit here, but we haven’t noticed any difference.

If you’re going to be out for a while, consider turning off your account sync. Android makes this really simple to do. The home screen Power Control widget has a button to toggle this feature on and off. You can also set this in the Accounts and Sync settings menu. Just uncheck Auto-sync; but it is easier to just use the home screen widget. Doing this means no push Gmail, contact syncing, or calendar sync. But if it’s just for a little while, you can still manually sync.

If you’re running a newer version of Android, you probably have the option to let apps auto-update in the background. You’re going to want to uncheck that option for each app’s entry. It’s worth the minor inconvenience of hitting the ‘Update All’ button while on Wi-Fi to not blow huge holes in your data quota. Apps are getting bigger on Android, with some topping 20MB. You don’t want your phone to decide to update that when you’re on 3G.

One last way to use the Android system settings to reduce data consumption is also found in the Accounts and Sync menu. This is the nuclear option for reducing data consumption. If you uncheck the Background Data box, apps will not be able to use data in the background. You will only be able to initiate data sessions in foreground apps. This obviously limits the usefulness of the phone, but you can control your data completely!

Software

Finally, there are a few apps you can use to help monitor & manage your data use – just cannot recommend any for fear of bias – yes there are many!


BlackBerry BES – Work-Life Balance solution

Balance Unifies Work and Personal Use of BlackBerry Smartphones without Compromising Company Security or Personal Privacy

Research In Motion (RIM) is advancing work-life balance on BlackBerry® smartphones with BlackBerry® Balance™ – new technology that makes possible the convenience of using a single BlackBerry smartphone for both work and personal purposes without compromising the security of company content and the privacy of personal content. RIM is introducing this technology in response to the growing trend by businesses to allow employees to use personal BlackBerry smartphones for work, or company-owned smartphones for personal, and the need by businesses to secure, manage and control confidential company or client information on these devices.

BlackBerry Balance presents a unified view of work and personal content on a BlackBerry smartphone while keeping the content separate and secure. The division between work and personal content is transparent to the user unless they try to perform actions prohibited by company policy. IT administrators can set policies via BlackBerry® Enterprise Server or BlackBerry® Enterprise Server Express. These policy settings can enable the following:

• Secure access to business information while preventing the information from being copied into, sent from or used by personal applications like Facebook®, Twitter®, Windows Live™ Hotmail, Google Mail™ or Yahoo!® Mail accounts.

• Business data or files created by business applications cannot be used by personal applications.

• If a user attempts an action that is prohibited by IT policy, a notification is displayed on the device.

• If an employee leaves the organization, an administrator can remotely wipe business information from the device while leaving personal information intact.

• If a device is lost or stolen, an administrator can wipe all information from the device to help ensure that sensitive business information and the user’s personal information don’t fall into the wrong hands.

BlackBerry Balance is available only on BlackBerry devices and can be applied to employee- or company-owned smartphones. It is built into BlackBerry® Enterprise Server 5.0.3 and BlackBerry® Enterprise Server Express 5.0.3 for Microsoft® Exchange® or IBM® Lotus® Domino®. It also requires the latest version of BlackBerry® 6 Device Software*.

For more information, visit www.blackberry.com/balance.