Standard Bank is building a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), according to well-placed industry sources. The bank has hired former Virgin Mobile South Africa CEO Steve Bailey to its executive team.
Standard Bank is also aggressively hiring telecommunications skills, TechCentral has learnt.
If it goes ahead with the MVNO, Standard Bank will be the second big retail bank in South Africa to launch a virtual operator following the introduction of FNB Connect in 2015. It will, however, mark an about-turn from its previous views about launching an MVNO.
A bank spokesman said it is not able to comment. Bailey, whose LinkedIn profile shows he joined Standard Bank late last year, also said he could not comment.
MVNOs piggyback on existing networks’ infrastructure, but typically provide their own backend billing and customer support. FNB uses Cell C’s network. Other MVNOs include Virgin Mobile and Mr Price Mobile.
Before joining Standard Bank, Bailey was CEO of MVN-X, a virtual mobile “enablement” company that launched MVNOs such as Mr Price Mobile, X Mobile, Smart Mobile and Me&You Mobile. He was CEO of Virgin Mobile South Africa between 2008 and 2012 and before that was chief customer operations officer at Cell C.
While it’s not known who Standard Bank might be working with, market talk is that it may have partnered with Vodacom, though this could not be verified. A Vodacom spokesman said the company won’t comment on speculation. To date, only Cell C has worked with MVNO partners. The company offers a platform on top of which MVNOs are able to provide services.
In 2016, former MTN CEO Phuthuma Nhleko said that a large financial services institution would launch an MVNO on MTN South Africa’s network. That never transpired.
In an interview with TechCentral later that same year, Standard Bank’s chief executive for personal and business banking, Peter Schlebusch, said that although the bank had looked at the MVNO model “extensively” it had decided against it.
“There are a lot of competent players in the telecoms space already,” Schlebusch said at the time. “FNB, clearly, has taken a different view, and they have their own reasons.”
He said the bank wanted to focus on delivering a “fantastic customer experience in banking and financial services”, rather than being side-tracked by a venture into telecoms.
To launch an MVNO, Standard Bank would have to commit to high fixed costs upfront. The problem, Schlebusch said, was that “you’re not sure how many customers are going to come across to your platform”. And the market “can be quite saturated at the top”.
It now appears to have changed its thinking on a venture in the telecoms market.
Standard Bank has the largest retail customer base of any bank in South Africa, with 11.8m clients as of December 2016, ahead of next biggest rival Absa with 8.8m and Capitec with 8.3m. That’s a rich seam of clients into which the bank could sell mobile services. — © 2018 NewsCentral Media
South African consumers are about to get their first taste of Chinese phone maker OnePlus’s line of smartphones. The company will launch its flagship OnePlus 5 device in South Africa next week, TechCentral can reveal.
Distribution for the brand in South Africa was recently awarded to Cernotech, a technology distributor responsible for brands such as CAT Phones, Deeper and Amaryllo. The OnePlus phones will be available first through First National Bank, and directly from Cernotech, through its website.
The OnePlus phones have attracted a growing audience of consumers drawn to the phones’ high-end specifications and midrange pricing.
OnePlus was founded in 2013 by Pete Lau, a former vice-president at Oppo, another big Chinese smartphone brand, and Carl Pei. It falls under BBK Electronics, which owns Oppo, Vivo and other smartphone and consumer electronics brands.
Known for its payoff line “Never Settle”, the company’s new flagship, the OnePlus 5, was launched internationally in June. The company is now planning a follow-up, the OnePlus 5T, which will be unveiled at an event in New York next week. It’s not immediately clear when the 5T model will be available in South Africa. The international price of the 5T will reportedly be the same as the 5.
The OnePlus 5 will be available in South Africa on 15 November at a recommended retail price of R11 999. Only the 128GB version will be made available locally. The OnePlus 5 will also be available through FNB Connect for R599/month as part of a 24-month contract.
The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, coupled with up to 8GB of RAM. A review unit delivered to TechCentral ahead of the launch came with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of flash storage; it was powered by Google’s Android 7.1.1.
The OnePlus 5 has dual rear cameras, one with a 16-megapixel sensor and other with a 20MP sensor with a telephoto lens to determine the distance between the sensor and objects in the environment.
In portrait mode, the two sensors work together to create a focal separation between faces and backgrounds, while a custom software algorithm makes your subject clear and well-lit, OnePlus said.
This results in a professional depth-of-field (bokeh) effect that keeps faces sharp in front of a blurred backdrop.
A “smart capture” feature combines optical zoom with multi-frame technology to let user’s zoom in with more clarity, while the dual-camera system is used to calculate depth so as to speed up autofocus.
There’s also a “pro mode” offering ISO, white balance, shutter-speed, focus and exposure modification, as well as an on-screen histogram and RAW image file support.
OnePlus claims half an hour of charge using its “dash charge” technology is enough to power the phone for a day. It has a 3 300mAh battery.
Craig Wilson, editor of South African consumer technology magazine Stuff, said he has “always been really impressed by OnePlus devices”.
“They’ve consistently offered flagship-matching or even -beating specs at considerably lower prices than bigger-name brands. The OnePlus 5, for example, includes a 20MP and 16MP dual-camera setup and 8GB of RAM, which best even Samsung’s recent Note8, which costs almost R7 000 more,” Wilson said.
“In its early days (2014-2015), OnePlus did a shrewd job of building a mystique around the brand by using an invite-only ordering system. That made its devices even more desirable and exclusive but also meant the company could effectively manage its supply chain and ensure it could match demand while avoiding building any handsets that wouldn’t be sold,” he added.
“It’s exciting that OnePlus products will at last be available to South African consumers through an official channel. If the local importer is able to offer reliable after-sales support, it could do well in the local market, especially as there are a growing number of consumers opting for Sim-only packages and a standalone handset purchase, instead of contracts with subsidised devices — that’s precisely the sort of consumer OnePlus targets. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media
First National Bank has debuted the second generation of its own-branded smartphones. The ConeXis X2 and ConeXis A2 will be available for R69/month for the base model and R199/month for the premium model, and will be offered free to consumers who are on eBucks rewards level 5.
The launch of the new smartphones comes just over a year after the bank launched its first smartphones. Like the originals, the ConeXis X1 and A1, are made by ZTE.
FNB said it has sold about 76 000 of the original models.
The premium X2 is a 4G smartphone featuring 32GB of flash storage and 3GB of RAM. It features dual cameras on the back — one is 13 megapixels, the other 2MP — and a 5MP front-facing camera. The phone, which runs Android Nougat, supports tap-and-pay at the point of sale through FNB’s Pay service. It has a 5-inch screen, 2 800mAh battery and a fingerprint scanner. It also has an eight-way processor and supports virtual reality applications.
It costs R199/month (up from R150/month for the X1 at launch), and comes with a monthly 25 minutes of calls and 100MB of data on the bank’s own FNB Connect network, a “virtual” mobile operator that piggybacks on Cell C’s infrastructure. A R1 500 deposit, refundable after 24 months, is payable upfront. People on different eBucks tiers get between 10% and 100% off the price.
The second phone, the ConeXis A2, is a 3G phone with a 4.5-inch display, 8GB of flash storage and 1GB of RAM. With a 2 000mAh battery and a quad-core processor, it costs R69/month (up R10/month compared to the A1 model’s launch price) and comes with a monthly 15 minutes of voice and 50MB of data. It has a quad-core processor. eBucks level discounts also apply; a R500 refundable deposit is payable.
Both phones, which are available from 2 October, are network locked to FNB Connect, meaning they can’t be used on other South African networks. They can be unlocked after 24 months. — © 2017 NewsCentral Media