Best answers from Ask Vodacom Innovation Head Jannie van Zyl Anything

MyBroadband’s latest Ask Anything discussion saw Vodacom Innovation Head and former iBurst CEO Jannie van Zyl personally answer questions from MyBroadband members.

Van Zyl is a telecoms industry veteran, and is behind many advances in local data products and services.

He also previously ran a home automation business, and is an expert on mobile devices and smartphones.

The discussion was a hit with MyBroadband’s members – with over 300 questions and answers, and 10,000 views.

Here are some of the interesting questions and answers from the Ask Anything discussion.

MickeyD: Regarding Vodacom’s FTTH/FTTB roll-out plans – Will it follow the same business process as all the other operators, i.e. cherry-picking to snatch the low-hanging fruit?

It’s really a function of economics. When a new technology is rolled out, it’s expensive and uptake is low (as it ramps up). It thus makes sense to deploy where you can get the best possible uptake; business parks and gated estates or other self-organizing communities.

This gives two things; fibre in areas where it was not before and economies of scale. Both these will enable the next phase; rolling out to individual homes in the area.

Rpm: What are the biggest threats which mobile operators face?

Look at what their core strengths are today – high-quality, national networks; providing voice and data services.

Disrupt any of these and you have a problem. This could be new networking technologies such as ground-based Wi-Fi (if the WISPs can ever get organised) to aerial solutions such as Loon or satellite options.

Kevin Lancaster: Is Vodacom shaping customers’ data traffic in any way when they use WhatsApp? Be it WhatsApp messages or voice.

Nope, not at all.

DTBA: If Vodacom has a congested tower, what are the steps taken to make the tower usable for every user on the tower?

1. Increase the capacity on the tower by adding more sectors or more frequencies (i.e. add 4G). We always try to run fibre to the tower in any case.
2. Build more towers in the area.

Porsche Driver: Will Vodacom consider launching Wi-Fi calling?

Launched last year already, in fact we were first. Handset support is the big challenge at the moment.

Porsche Driver: When was the last time you purchased a data bundle?

I get a whack of data on my Red contract so I tend to never run out (OK, just checked, have 7GB of 11GB left). But I buy bundles for the family quite frequently.

Jaapster: How do you view “failure” as it relates to innovation? When is it part of the process and when is it unacceptable?

Failure should never be seen as something unacceptable. As Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Knowing how to not do something is as important as knowing how to do it.

Not failing fast is an issue. Rather go balls-to-the-wall and then fail spectacularly than doing something half-heartedly and set yourself up for inevitable failure. When organisations attempt to ‘innovate’ but want to limit the risk is when it all comes apart. You only set yourself up for failure and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Mimen: Will your FTTH network be open to other ISPs?

We definitely support open access.

Ndalama: What is the future for uncapped wireless (3G/4G) to areas (rural) that wont be getting fibre in the next 10 years?

“Uncapped” and “wireless” are pretty much contradictory terms. With a small amount of spectrum available there is just not enough capacity to deliver an uncapped service.

The uncapped wireless offers you see today are typically when there is an underutilized network or some attempt to acquire market share. When the network saturates, speeds and quality will suffer. We even saw this with uncapped DSL in the early days.

But as speeds go up, so will the caps.

Icemanbrfc: A Pony or a Ferrari?

A prancing horse over a pony every day.

Feeso: Why does Vodacom have a limited range of cellphones?

Selecting the handsets to carry is a complex interplay on cost, customer demand, volume commitments, etc.

Ford78: How will Vodacom’s new innovations add value for its customers?

Innovations drive down costs, improve inefficiencies, and bring new products. All these directly add value to customers either through better pricing, better service levels, or new offers.

SynicalFox: Is Vodacom considering increasing their data prices to discourage people from using WhatsApp over messaging services and phone call services provided by Vodacom?


Andrew5000: Why on earth would Vodacom want to sponsor the Blue Bulls instead of the mighty Lions? Your colours don’t even match.

Rudolph Straeuli asked me the same question the other day.

RichardG: What was the make and model of your first mobile telephone?

Wish I can remember. It was a brick with a pull-out antenna. Would love to get my hands on one again.

Rodcramb: I have been a Vodacom customer since 1995. Same number, small contract changes. Why don’t you ever reward loyal customers?

A decent loyalty programme for guys like you (and me!) are in the pipeline.

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Best answers from Ask Vodacom Innovation Head Jannie van Zyl Anything