FNB becomes virtual ISP and VoIP provider in South Africa


First National Bank (FNB) has released a product called FNB Connect as a virtual ISP after obtaining IECNS and IECS licences. According to the bank, FNB Connect offers customers cheaper Internet and voice (VOIP) solutions.

FNB CEO, Michael Jordaan, says: “This new solution is centred on innovation and using FNB's existing billing system will give our customers savings of 50% or more on their Internet data and voice calls.”

The solution is broken into two offerings, the 'Surf' solution for data, which allows ADSL users to purchase prepaid data, and the 'Talk' solution, which focuses on supplying cheaper calls to landlines and cellphones, through a VOIP solution.

Unlike a similar solution from Absa a few years back, which was offered free of charge, FNB Connect is not free. “The service is based on a prepaid model, so you pay for what you use and you are not locked into a contract, giving you more flexibility and freedom to manage your Internet and call costs,” says Carmen Roux, CEO of FNB Connect.

“With our FNB Connect Surf product, ADSL users can save by buying prepaid data at 6.9c per MB or R69 per GB. We don't offer bundles, and carry what you don't use over to the next month, for up to 12 months,” she adds.

According to Roux, FNB Connect is easy to use and install on a PC or cellphone, by downloading a free software application developed in-house by FNB. The application, called Digital Phone, lets customers send SMS messages at very low costs and instant messages for free. “Calls to some international destinations can be as low as 31c per minute,” says Roux.

FNB Connect CIO, Luis Simoes, says: “The solution works on Windows and Linux platforms and currently on Symbian S60 versions 3.1 and 2.1 and Windows-based cellphones. We are busy developing the solution to support Symbian s60 version 3.0, Java and the iPhone.”

Simoes adds that it will take in the region of two months to finalise. “There is no Apple Mac-compatible solution yet.” He also explains that with the Talk solution, customers will be able to make free FNB Connect to FNB Connect calls, via their cellphone, landline or PC, depending on the package they select.

The two options available are the ConnectChat option, which is purely prepaid, and the ConnectXtra, which is a prepaid offering, but includes an annual membership of R249.