[/blockquote]Not to get me wrong as regards the ‘WTF’ abbreviation, it actually stands for Whatsapp, Facebook & Twitter. These three are widely used across Uganda and they command a large user base than anything else social. Given the attachment Ugandans have towards the above social networks, telcos flooded the market with WTF specific data bundles to attract users and in the process, WTF became the one to go for bundle for social freaks, especially those hailing from the bottom of the pyramid, who form the majority.
The lackluster uptake of other social networks spiraling elsewhere like SnapChat owes much to the costs involved, something that can’t be said of the three, at least cost wise. Facebook has its Lite variant, a stripped down version of its bigger cousin specifically for cost conscious customers, while Whatsapp is right away driven by text though video, photo, audio and documents which are apparent and now part of its core. Twitter is predominantly text but itself has both photo and video. It should be noted that text consumes less bandwidth in comparison to video, audio and photos.
This explains why YouTube is immensely popular but users are drawn back by its high affinity to data consumption. Something most likely to stifle Netflix’s growth prospects in the developing world, or any other video distribution platform and video driven apps. Now you understand why SnapChat has an achilles heel to overcome.
Narrations about how video is conquering the social sphere are solid, with YouTube now said to be bigger than any US television network, SnapChat taking an upwards trajectory, Instagram increasing its video Ads length time and not forgetting Facebook doubling down on Video going against YouTube, which is now the Goliath of video. This is so not because they just want to feed us with video but usage patterns call for them to.
In Uganda, low data prices are miracle in the making?
How Telcos or players have tapped into this growth remains to be seen, mainly brought down by their high data prices that hinder many who would be potential of these video-centric services. Blame them not though, the cost of building robust wireless network services which make up the biggest percentage of Uganda’s telecom market is huge and is susceptible to investor demands at the end of the day. They’ll need a return for their investments but with competition almost silenced in Uganda, low data prices are miracle in the making.
On the other hand, these carriers are the same players pushing WTF, of course at capped data amounts but benefit the most once users feel the demand for more outstrips what WTF currently has to offer. They stand higher chances of these frustrated users subscribing to their compelling bundles and it’s business as usual.
Just last week while perusing through the Business Week Daily, a story struck me about Tigo Tanzania offering free YouTube to its over 10 million subscribers. The service being available to all pre-paid Tigo customers from 0000hrs-0600hrs (to bring the point back home, pre-paid customers are ardent users of WTF) and the announcement came at a time when it just launched free Whatsapp services a while ago.
So, how about a Netflix or YouTube only bundle?
This shows how Tigo recognized an industry growth area stifled by cost and came up with a practical mechanism to address it. Its Ugandan counterparts can borrow a leaf or two, just like they’ve long fronted their mid-night 1 GB bundles in faces of consumers and they’ve become popular ever since. So how about a Netflix only bundle? YouTube only bundle? Or they right away feed us their in-house video portals devoid of data charges but spiced enough with content that they can later capitalize on? This seems a long call but we’re patiently waiting.
Well, this will invite subtle issues like net neutrality, unfair competition practices and many will urge how their unlimited data bundles specifically answer the many questions asked above. These however come capped with the fair usage policies that once one exceeds their cap, snail speeds take effect and this ruins the experience that you’re forced subscribe to a new bundle. In due process, it becomes expensive and nevertheless one is forced to give up or cut back on usage. A no win for consumers!
Take an example of Netflix, on average it burns 1GB of data per hour for Standard Definition (480p) streams and 3 GB of data per hour for HD (720p) streams, which also isn’t a win for consumer so the need to push through video only bundles not limited to the likes of Netflix or YouTube but also the mobile network operator’s own video services if they happen to be available.
Video demand is reaching unprecedented heights but players in the space haven’t figured out a way to address the market with data driven bundles. We’re yet to see any player disrupt the market with such an offering.