If someone were to purchase a mobile broadband modem but was unaware of data bundles, how quickly would 500 shillings worth of airtime disappear into cyberspace? I’ve been there – not knowing what ‘converting to data’ meant – and going through euros worth of airtime while surfing in Helsinki until the shop assistant gave me a printout of texts to send after uploading in order to enable the unlimited monthly deal for just e 20.
Customers who’d done the same in their ignorance came back to the cyber to surf and I had to bite my tongue not to ask the owner why he hadn’t informed them about data bundles? Why should he lose his captive audience and his regular income stream? Whose responsibility was it to educate new customers of broadband modems about the best way to access the internet or to help set up their phones for browsing?
Was it any surprise that cyber operators were beginning to charge customers for helping them open an email account or set up their Facebook page, since this initialization still required a computer and could not be done through the mobile phone. One such enterprising individual charges 300 shillings to help you browse using your phone if its not genuine. Even the IDEOS – which apparently sold like hotcakes in Nakuru when it was first launched quickly gained a reputation for gobbling airtime and battery power with its always on services coupled with the lack of awareness among owners on the difference between voice and data airtime rates.
So while awareness of the internet and the knowledge it is able to bring to your fingertips is increasing exponentially particularly where educational facilities are sprouting and the student population grows, the so called mobile phone internet revolution is stumbling around in ignorance while the cyber cafe industry enjoys the boom.
In the meantime, I wonder if this might have anything to do with the fact that as operators see their data sales increase, their ARPUs are still dropping?