Coming soon to East Africa: Browsing without a smartphone

Saturday August 13 2016

A mobile phone subscriber surfs the Internet. A

A mobile phone subscriber surfs the Internet. A new technology that will enable cellphone users to access cyber space without necessarily having a smartphone or a computer will soon be available in East Africa through mobile communication firm ONEm. PHOTO | FILE 

By CHRISTOPHER KIDANKA

A new technology that will enable cellphone users to access cyber space without necessarily having a smartphone or a computer will soon be available in East Africa through mobile communication firm ONEm.

Speaking to The EastAfrican on the sidelines of the Mobile 360 Series Conference Africa held in Dar es Salaam recently, ONEm chief executive Christopher Richardson said the technology will use a mode called TTO (Through the operator).

Under this mode, a mobile phone operator will be given free access to the data centre to enable its customers to send voice and text messages to many receivers, and access other Internet-based data such as Wikipedia at a small fee. The service is set to begin before the end of this year.

“The operator will charge a small fee because they do not own the infrastructure and they don’t need to invest in that,” said Mr Richardson.

This is opposed to OTT (Over the top) system which works over the user’s data networks to access services such as Skype and Viber for making calls, and the operators do not charge anything. Services like WhatsApp and Weechat are used to send messages. The caller benefits from the Internet up to the target local network where the OTT buys and resells wholesale minutes to land the call.

TTO on the other hand goes a step further by creating new revenues, providing a new channel and attracting social and business communication to the mobile operator’s network, according to ONEm.

ONEm has already partnered with 100 operators around the world and has data centres in the US, Hong Kong and UK to provide the service; one is being built in Mombasa.

In Tanzania, Benson Informatics Ltd, which trades as Smart, has already sealed a deal and “other operators are willing to join,” Mr Richardson said,

“Small traders with feature phones can create their inventory and write on SMS before they store in a cloud, so no need of writing on a piece of paper anymore; in short it’s a new kind of Internet that works with normal mobile phones,” said Mr Richardson.

ONEm is targeting 30 mobile phone operators in Africa hoping that they will see a business opportunity that will enable them to reach their customers without the need to construct towers.