Cellular telephony is the biggest success story so far in South Africa, with the number of people with access to a cell phone hugely exceeding those with access to most other communications media – including the Internet, fixed-line telephony or even television. But until now, efforts for companies to communicate effectively with this huge market of cell phone users have largely been stymied.
Early efforts to make content available to cell phones through WAP (wireless application protocol) proved expensive and cumbersome and left a negative impression that the market has been slow to shake off. Now MobiBlitz has come up with a way that lets marketers reach a huge and receptive audience of cell phone users in an efficient and cost-effective way.
The company will use the upcoming Computer Faire to demonstrate the two different ways that the technology can be used to reach users via their ever-present cell phones.
MobiBlitz co-founder Farhad Omar explains that visitors will be encouraged to switch on their phones' Bluetooth capability when they arrive at the Sandton Convention Centre. While they're at the show, they will receive messages on their phones relating to products, services or special offers at Computer Faire.
These messages will be "pushed" to visitors' phones via Bluetooth, which is the short-range radio frequency networking technology that allows devices to communicate within limited areas.
They will relate specifically to Computer Faire and will help to maximise visitors' experience at the show.
"These messages will only be received on the visitors' cell phones while they're actually visiting Computer Faire," Omar explains.
The technology is similar to what retailers, mall managers or sporting event organisers might use to pass on information or special deals to shoppers or audiences while they are at the specific venue.
In addition to the "pushed" messages, visitors will be able to use their cell phones to access information about Computer Faire. This will include floor plans, news and marketing information.
"All the information on the Computer Faire site will be housed on the Mobizone mobile site," says Omar.
"Visitors will be able to use their mobile phones to do anything they can do on the Internet – look for information, plan their visit or register as a visitor, either before the event or once they're there."
Users accessing the Mobizone at Computer Faire will be able to do so via the Bluetooth network. Once they leave the show, they will still be able to access the content via GPRS.
There's one big difference between the way users traditionally download content via GPRS and the way they access it on Mobizone, though – on Mobizone it's free and superfast
Omar explains that GPRS usually costs about R2.00 per Megabyte of downloaded content. With Mobizone, however, users browse the content without actually downloading it, so there is no cost involved.
He points out that the market is crying out for a technology like Mobizone that will help them reach the enormous potential market of cell phone users.
"When WAP launched a couple of years ago there was some huge hype but it never took off – mainly because it was too expensive and cumbersome for users," he says.
"With Mobizone, however, we make sure content is relevant and easy to access."
The Mobizone portal already gives users quick and easy access to news, weather and horoscopes, among other content, which users can access freely on the cell phones.
As the technology becomes more pervasive, the company will add other services and applications.
Omar believes South Africa is ready to start addressing the cell phone market in a meaningful way, and offerings like Mobizone are positioned to make an impact in this new environment.
MobiBlitz was founded by Stan Katz and Farhad Omar in 2005.
Computer Faire will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre from 20 to 23 May 2008. To register on your mobile phone, go to www.mobizone.co.za.