By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha
Harare, Zimbabwe – Early 2011, Vodafone launched Vodafone Webbox, the first device of its kind, bringing affordable internet access to a customer’s existing television set, just by plugging in a keyboard.
This innovation is likely to prove a game changer by plugging in the gap of last mile connection in most countries in Africa. Last mile connectivity refers to the part of the communication provider’s network that is closest to the customer. The “last mile” is frequently stated in terms of the last mile problem, because the end link between customers and connectivity has proved to be difficult to solve.
“The Webbox is a Vodafone innovation developed specifically for customers in emerging markets, where technology and cost barriers often exclude many from enjoying affordable, ready internet access at home or in the workplace. A sleek, black, 14 x 25cm QWERTY keyboard, the Webbox uses standard RCA connectors to plug into the television. With no set-up required, the plug and play keyboard converts any standard domestic television into an internet portal,” according to the company’s press release.
““The Webbox is a simple yet very innovative product. It has the potential to make a powerful difference in the lives of people in emerging markets who have limited access to the internet, but where TV penetration is typically very high. The simplicity of the product is striking – it brings the internet to the TV, be that at home for the family, in schools for education or in small businesses to assist local economic growth,” said Patrick Chomet, Vodafone’s Group Director of Terminals.
The Webbox home screen allows the customer to navigate easily between the core services: Opera Mini 5.1 internet access; SMS and email messaging; internet search and media services including FM radio and a photo gallery tool, as well as a music player.
The Webbox Opera Mini browser runs over the 2.5G and EDGE mobile networks, compressing data by around 90% and so serving fast-loading internet pages. The browser homepage comes with bookmarks such as news, sport and social networking sites as well as locally relevant apps such as a job search and application service. In addition, the portal comes with some games, a dictionary and a basic text editor.