Digital Content

VODACOM has introduced the next phase of its third generation (3G) data services in a move designed to give cellphone users something to do with their high-priced, high-speed handsets.

The latest offering is Vodafone live!, an evolving library of global and local content specifically designed for viewing over the relatively small screen of a cellphone.

That will make more use of the 3G high-speed network which Vodacom is rolling out in urban parts of the country at a cost of R1,2bn.

The service will change the way subscribers use their cellphones in the future, says CEO Alan Knott-Craig, who hails it as the finest example of 3G technology in action.

Part of the service's attraction should be its ease of use, since accessing data over a cellphone has generally been slow, frustratingly complicated, and lacking in useful services for anyone who actually managed to reach a data site.

"Vodafone live! is similar to browsing the internet on your handset," says Vodacom chief operating officer Pieter Uys. "You can view different pages designed specifically for the handsets and download unique content.

"There are no settings to be configured, no numbers to call, just one touch access to a whole world of content and services."

Uys has previously acknowledged that to make money from high-speed data networks, operators must offer a service so interesting, entertaining or useful that it slots naturally into everyday life.

All the Vodafone live! content is accessed through an icon-based, colour menu on Vodafone cellphones. Users will be able to download full music tracks, send video or picture messages, and download games and polyphonic ringtones.

There is no charge for the time spent online, so users can window shop before paying for anything they buy or download.

The service is available to both contract and prepaid customers. It costs R29 a month or R69 a month, depending on the number of ringtones, pictures or games a user wants to download.