Vodacom unveils R749 Internet TV device

Romeo Kumalo

Vodacom has taken the wraps off WebBox, an Internet device that connects to consumers’ television sets. The operator hopes the product will extend Internet access to more South Africans.

Vodacom SA commercial director Romeo Kumalo reckons the device will “change the face of Internet connectivity in SA”.

The Vodafone WebBox (click to enlarge)

“This device will ensure that Internet access is available to many more South Africans who previously had limited or no access,” says Kumalo.

WebBox is a Vodafone product developed for customers in emerging markets. It has a keyboard that comes with a Sim card and a built-in modem that provides a simple user interface, enabling users to navigate between services such as Web browsing (via the Opera Mini browser), SMS and e-mail.

Other services include FM radio and an online photo album as well as games and video and music players.

According to Vodafone literature, the device supports Edge connections but does not connect at 3G speeds. It can be hooked up to a TV using regular RCA jacks.

The product costs R749, and includes a 2GB SD card, a prepaid Sim card and 100MB of data, valid for the first three months. Vodacom also plans to offer the product on a 24-month contract soon.

Vodacom has called a press conference for Tuesday at Vodaworld in Midrand, presumably to provide more details about the WebBox.

MTN, meanwhile, is holding a press conference on Wednesday in Mamelodi outside Pretoria at which it is promising to unveil a device that “provides affordable Internet access without needing an expensive laptop”.  — Staff reporter, TechCentral

Video demonstrating the WebBox, courtesy of Vodafone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_gZuo_nRrA

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  • http://www.metvafrica.com Nyasha

    very interesting the market is now opening up. but I wonder what one can do with 100mb of data when connected to a tv- surely one would want to watch streaming video etc?

  • http://twitter.com/adielslarmie adiel

    Vodacom SA commercial director Romeo Kumalo reckons the device will “change the face of Internet connectivity in SA”.

    The device itself costs less than a couple gigs of data on their network.

    If you wanna reach the emerging market with access, maybe mobile is the place to do it. Now these poor guys have to worry about TV licences & exhorbitant data costs as well.

    Didn’t Vodacom launch a super cheap Netbook type product for the same reason last year? Whats the difference?

  • http://www.thinkingoutloud.co.za Garth Michel

    HAHAhahahHAHAHhAhaHAHAHAHaaHAHAHA!!!

    100mb data

    HAhahaHHAHahHAhhahHAHAHA!!

  • http://www.mycapetown.biz Christopher Brunsdon

    That so reminds me of my ZX Spectrum 48K, but then the internet was unheard of

    Think I will be getting one of these toys just for the fun of it

  • Thabiso Sello

    Not bad. I hope they (Vodacom AND MTN) have plans to drop the cost of internet access over their networks. Affordability will be the true determining factor for the future success of these useful, but ultimately, none-essential gadgets.

    Also, I’m sort’a mad that I paid R 300.00 for the USB modem that I never actually use since I upgraded my phone and found my HTC gives me a better connectivity.

    As for the 100Mb bait? I agree with Nyasha and Gart Michel here (lol)…

  • http://www.cablemap.info Greg

    If they’re really serious about helping and reaching emerging markets, they’ll do what they do in india – dirt cheap 64kbit or 128kbit uncapped connections. Right now this looks like yet another way for them to rip off people that can least afford it, with the razorblade model – cheap initial device, ripoff running costs.

    >The device itself costs less than a couple gigs of data on their network

    Not really a clever thing to say. Doesn’t this just highlight what a ripoff their data prices are?

  • Mike

    Eeesh – not sure about the “wired” keyboard. Surely they could have figured out a way to make it wireless and connect to a terminal that in turn links to the tv?

  • Neelan

    NO 3G!!!!
    I would have thought that would have been the minimum for a device like this.
    Been waiting a long time for something like this but with no 3G I’d rather hookup my Laptop to my TV.

  • http://twitter.com/adielslarmie adiel

    @ Greg They didn’t actually say that last bit….That was me saying it. In an effort to highlight what a ripoff their data prices are:)

  • Ernst

    What a joke. We really do not need another web device, all we need is cheaper data rates. Not the ripoffs we are currently getting!

  • http://www.cablemap.info Greg

    @adiel ah-ha. My bad. I agree!

  • david

    No 3G! With this type of thinking, such a product will go nowhere. We are an emerging market but it doesn’t mean we do not want fast internet. Reduce you data cost, make the device HSDPA and let the market decide. Strategy 101.

  • Glen

    I find it really hard to not imagine that MTN and Vodacom are in collusion regarding devices like this considering that they are both launching a similar device at the same time? Mmmm….makes one think doesn’t it?

  • maneshk

    The target market for this device is not the high end user who streams video and plays network games. Think back to the day when having a mobile phone was for those who had a credit rating and could afford R120 per month for network access.
    When prepaid was launched, everyone could afford it. The next catalyst was to introduce affordable handsets. Then, everyone has a cellphone and can make a call or be contacted. Imagine if this webbox could give every home access to basic email and web browsing (this is a necessity for every south african). If a person could do online training via web browser or long distance study, then more people would have access to basic education. More people would be able to do online shopping.
    Video streaming and online gaming/gambling is a luxury. 2.5G and 3G : I might be mistaken, but 2.5G has wider coverage in SA.
    I don’t dispute that price of data needs to be revisited by all telco companies. The webbox product has a different target market from those who already have access to internet.

  • Foster

    I think that there is perhaps a more crucial issue that people have glossed over. Unless you have a newer LCD or LED TV (which is certainly not the target market), you can’t read anything that comes up on the very fuzzy and low resolution screen that TV use (which is fine for pictures, but certainly not text). This seems like an invitation to create a nation of people with eye-strain.

  • Mudshark

    100mb data bwahahahahah

    *puts on tinfoil hat*

  • Brett

    LJ BUSINESS MODEL

    1. Teaze them
    2.Make them feel special
    3.Get their last cent for the least outlay

  • maneshk

    @Foster : good point. Didn’t think about the picture quality on those older TV’s.

    I wonder what the market share of LCD compared to CRT tv is ?

  • Foster

    @maneshk: The best estimate I can find (after a quick Google) is 2.65 million CRT against 2.54 million LCD and Plasma (from a paper on power consumption found here, page 7, if you are interested: http://www.myprius.co.za/Bredekamp%20AJ%20-%20PAPER_2010_DUE.pdf )

    So almost 50-50, although CRT must become more popular the lower your income becomes.

    I’m very undecided on this device. While it has many positive points (A keyboard, big screen for easy reading, good for playing music), it also has many negatives (lack of a mouse, cellphone OS, no USB, can’t make calls). I just feel that in a market like South Africa, where more than 70% of people own a cellphone* (upon which you could simply install Opera Mini), this device seems to have only niche appeal. If Vodacom want to introduce people to the internet, it may well be better to start with what they already own.

    *Granted, not all of these are Java-enabled, but you could simply buy one for the same price as this device, with the same features, and on top of that, you could still use it as a phone.

  • Tomas

    this offer is almost offensive, no 3G and 100 Mb of data. reminiscent of the days telkom claimed no one needs more than 3 gig of data on ADSL.
    Vodacom is screwing the poor and ignorant on this one, they’re better off using their cellphones to go online.

  • harry

    beautiful device hopefully lower data cost are on the way but wow amazing device non the less

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