And how often is a new product rolled out first in Madagascar? One which has nothing to do with penguins?
Honestly, we cover a lot of news here, but this is one of the best ideas we’ve seen in a long time.
Regional journal Star Africa reported that Movirtu is rolling out a Cloud Phone “aimed at low-income users.” The first market is Madagascar, company officials say others will follow.
Star Africa says the phone will be initially targeted to people “who can’t afford the minimum cost for a SIM to share in someone else’s phone.” Company officials are confident this problem can be solved with a cloud-based account allowing “anyone who has access to a GSM phone to share it but still retain their own number.”
It’s primarily aimed at low-income people who can’t afford their own phone or SIM card, those who are earning $1-2 a day, and agents who will be able to offer access to phones and individual accounts to use them. Low-cost it is: Company officials tell Star Africa that it costs as a little as 20 cents to deliver the service set-up, “compared to anything between $14-21 to deliver a SIM card.”
Its operation is simplicity itself, as Star Africa explains: A user’s account details are stored in the operator’s hub “and each individual user on the platform gets to store contacts and can have a service which forwards missed calls to another phone for when they are not logged in.”
There’s also a gateway so users can use m-money services like M-Pesa. “It currently works on any GSM handset but not CDMA, although they may extend to it in the future,” Star Africa notes.
Nigel Waller, the brains and driving force behind the project, worked in telecoms back-end infrastructure when an African operator asked him how to deliver a phone service more cheaply in rural areas. As Star Africa says, driving on a snowy road in Moscow, Waller got the idea to make the mobile service for the user based on a login, like e-mail.
Waller told Star Africa that up to 40 percent of the market will be interested. ”We’re pragmatic and know that in the short-term the take up is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands and we’re working hard with the local local marketing people to explain how it works. All you need to log in is a 4-digit PIN.”
One has to admit, it’s brilliant in its simplicity. One of those “Why didn’t anybody think of this before?” ideas.
After testing in 2010, raising $5.5 million from London-based TLcom Capital at the end of last year and a pilot with several operators in Africa, it went live with Airtel (News - Alert) Madagascar. As Waller told Star Africa, “We’d like to see it rolled out across all the Airtel territories.”David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Juliana Kenny