Features of the week
Leading telecom operator, Starcomms, recently introduced ‘Mobile Data Card’ into the nation’s market. REMMY NWEKE examines the product in this report.
TO every Information and Communications Technology (ICT) enthusiast, data is a critical factor in the exchange of information, moreso in this 21st century.
Data role, therefore, in the information society means a lot to different people and at different times, but it matters most during emergencies in order to facilitate next line of action.
Defined as information or facts in a form that could be stored and used, according to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, data is regarded as catalyst for development policies in any given society, as said by the chief executive of Connect Technologies Limited, Mr. Chris Uwaje, adding that Nigeria cannot afford to be seen as lagging behind.
As a result, being online through the Internet affords anybody the advantage of having a huge data bank available 24 hours by seven days and 365 days in a year, as long as one is connected.
To achieve this critical dream of being accessible anytime, anywhere, a leading fixed wireless operator in the country, Starcomms Limited, recently came up with mobile data card for the public who are on the move and still want to keep in touch with the world of today.
Starcomms' mobile data card otherwise known as wireless internet card, fits into the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) - approved type two standard card slot which is available on most notebook PCs and functions as a wireless network card, a modem, and a mobile phone.
This card allows users to connect to the Internet, send and receive electronic messages and connect to corporate network as well as avails voice calls without the need for a network cable or phone line. PCMCIA is a non-profit trade association and standards body based in San Jose, California, with over 85 member companies globally, promoting PC card technology along with Miniature Card and Smart-Media cards by defining technical standards and educating the market.
Before now, cards were known as "PCMCIA Cards", but the industry now refers to products based on the technology as "PC Cards," "PC Card Hosts" and "PC Card Software," and refers to the association as PCMCIA.
This PC card comes in 85.6 millimeter (mm), 54.0 mm, 3.3 mm, with SRAM and flash memory.
SRAM is the industry abbreviation of Static Random Access Memory (SRAM), which in Computer Science is a form of semiconductor memory (RAM).
Static RAM storage is based on the logic circuit known as a flip-flop, which retains the information stored in it as long as there is enough power to run the device, while flash memory is another type of storage media that traps small amounts of electric charge in "wells" on the surface of a chip.
Speaking at the launch held at the 10th Nigerian International Telecommunications (NICOMM) exhibition in Lagos, Public Relations Manager, Starcomms, Ms Laura Johnson, informed that the product is a unique one that allows highly mobile and busy executives to browse the Internet, access their electronic mails (e-mails) and also receive and send text messages with their laptop and handheld Personal Computers (PCs), while on the go.
For the Marketing Director at Starcomms, Mr. Omar Lababidi, the new product has an average download speed of 80 kilo bits per second (kbps), which has capability to achieve most favorable speeds of about 140 kbps in a wireless environment and is compatible with Windows 98, NT4 (with SPA), 2000 and XP.
The 140 kbps is based on Starcomms' deployment of the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA 2000 1X), which is suitable multimedia content.
In addition, the Starcomms' boss enumerated two most important advantages derivable from the mobile data card as speed and convenience, stressing that the organization would not give up in its efforts at changing the face of telecoms in the country for good.
According to him, the Mobile Data Card does not require any special activation cost as the subscriber only needs to pay a one-off acquisition cost and subsequently a fixed monthly access charge that guarantees unlimited 24-hour access to the internet from any location within Starcomms' network coverage areas of Lagos, Kano, Maiduguri and soon the garden city of Port Harcourt and Ibadan.
He further said the introduction was consistent with the firm's leadership in product and service innovation, and was yet another indication of the company's resolve to deliver real value to its customers.
Inevitably, the product is for busy executives who could afford a laptop and who are constantly on the move but need to stay in touch, do some vital business research on the internet and send an e-mail urgently.
The director also said the features of the firm's mobile data card include the instant and reliable solution which enables users to be on top of their work and stay connected, just as users could access desirable information always at their disposal, thus adding mobile data capability to user's laptop or handheld PC.
On how it works, Mr. Lababidi explained it is easy to install as it has been structured into software compact disc and a mobile data card. "Slot the CD into your laptop and you are on," he declared, emphasizing that by this way, Starcomms' customers would get uninterrupted access to all the information they need, because there is no major connecting procedures, no need for dial up, and "just slot in and connect."
ITRealms gathered that in effect, the product being the first of its kind from any Private Telecom Operator (PTO) has other benefits including automatic set up, high speed connection, toll free, that is, no call charges, compatibility with most modern laptops, fast downloads, virus protection of which the telco promises attack update every 24 hours to avoid any system breakdown.
The company has introduced specialized device to give users the required freedom with several usage plans, on the network, including always on, business time, evenings and chat.
Starcomms currently has over 130,000 subscribers on its network covering Lagos, Kano and Maiduguri, and is reported to have about 1500 subscribers on its Internet precisely, as the telco plans to expand to Ibadan.
It was not surprise then the company was voted "Best Telephone Company of the Year 2004 (Fixed Wireless)" at the last Nigerian Information Technology and Telecoms Awards (NITTA 2004).
As the industry continues to grow and get better, industry watchers lauded the Starcomms' data available option, while other PTOs are expected to come up with more innovative products.