Azumi positions for 5G technology

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Bereng Mpaki

MOBILE handset manufacturer Azumi Mobile says its partnership with the Vodacom group, presents an opportunity to develop low cost 5G mobile devices for Lesotho market.

This was said by Azumi’s head of Africa market Tayshira Khan during the recent introduction the company’s two new smartphone models the Azumi Speed V5+ and the dual A4 Go.

The two entry level smartphones aimed driving down the cost of smartphones were launched in Maseru recently.

In an interview with the Lesotho Times on the sidelines of the launch, Ms Khan said their partnership with Vodacom places them at an advantage towards harnessing the power of the 5G for Basotho.

Lesotho became the first African country to launch the 5G network service. However, it is yet to start working with only two commercial clients having shown interest.

Vodacom Lesotho currently has 2G, 3G and 4G network available for its subscribers and Ms Khan said compared to other brands, the 5G network is a welcome challenge.

“Right now, the 5G is a very expensive technology and if you look at the prices of the tier one smartphones, we are roughly looking at around US$1 200 (about M17 000),” Ms Khan said.

“So yes, I believe we can take on the challenge and see what we can do in terms of bringing down the cost of the 5G device and make it affordable for Basotho.”

Tšepo Maketela, Vodacom Lesotho’s executive head: commercial operations, also said the 5G network presents an opportunity to exploit for Azumi.

“There is an opportunity to be the first brand (Azumi) to launch a 5G network device in Lesotho.”

Mr Maketela said the new Azumi models would go a long way in closing the digital gap by increasing the country’s smartphone penetration.

He said Vodacom’s smartphone penetration was about 60 percent, with 4G penetration at around 20 percent. He said they were hoping the new devices, especially the Speed V5+ would push the figures higher towards 50 percent.

On the progress of their partnership with Vodacom, Ms Khan said the collaboration has taken off smoothly over the past year.

“So far, the sales have been significant on 4G. To date, we have launched three devices, the first one being the 5-inch 4G device for which we put out the initial 5 000 units in the market in 2018 and they were sold out within six weeks. It was incredible!

“We have now launched the 4-inch (A4 Go) and another 5-inch (Speed V5+) which is an updated model with Android 8 operating system. The previous device had Android 7.”

She said their relationship with Vodacom allowed them to build customised products that are specifically suited for the needs of the local market.

“One of those examples is the dual sim device where we were able to provide another slot for Vodacom South Africa because when people cross the border, they have to get a second phone, so we know that there are thousands of people travelling between Lesotho and South Africa.

“Lesotho might have a smaller population but the smartphone penetration is high. This is what really makes Lesotho a great opportunity for anything because people are willing to try new things. There are other countries with huge populations but they still have low smartphone penetration,” Ms Khan said.

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