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Opera touts data compression tech in #DataMustFall

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Richard Monday, Opera vice-president, Africa.
Richard Monday, Opera vice-president, Africa.

Web browser Opera claims it saved South Africans R45 million in data costs in the first quarter of 2019.

In an interview with ITWeb, Richard Monday, Opera vice-president for Africa, said the Opera Mini browser is one of the most popular mobile browsers in the country because of its speed and data compression, which can save the user up to 90% in mobile data.

Opera Mini requests Web pages through Opera software's compression proxy server. The compression server processes and compresses requested Web pages before sending them to the mobile phone. The compression ratio is 90% and the transfer speed is increased by two to three times as a result.

However, StatCounter, a free online visitor stats tool, places Opera as the fourth most used browser in SA.

Its mobile browser market share report for SA in October 2019 shows Chrome leads with 61.87%, followed by Samsung with a distant 13.46%; next is Apple’s Safari with 11.79%, then Opera trails at 9.6%.

Monday’s Opera assertion comes on the back of a raging debate on data costs in the country.

According to new research from the Independent Communications Authority of SA's (ICASA’s) most recent bi-annual tariff analysis report, which covers the period 1 July to 31 December 2018, customers can pay as much as R22 500 for 20GB of data if they go out-of-bundle, and going 1GB or 1.5GB out-of-bundle could cost them anywhere from R300 to over R1 600.

Social fight

Since 2016, South Africans have been calling for mobile data prices to come down under the social media banner #DataMustFall.

Initially, the social media campaign was led by radio and media personality Thabo 'Tbo Touch' Molefe. The campaign resulted in Parliament's portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services spending two days in September 2016 hearing submissions from government, civil society organisations, telecoms operators and the public on the cost to communicate using mobile data.

This led to ICASA in June 2017 announcing its intention to conduct an inquiry to determine the priority markets in the electronic communications sector, followed by the publication of the discussion document this year.

The Competition Commission followed ICASA in August with its own inquiry into the high price of data services in SA. In October 2017, ICASA announced a third study, this time an international benchmark study, comparing data pricing in SA with other countries.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni also added his voice on the issue, saying the high costs limit the country’s competitiveness.

“The data compression mode in Opera Mini has the capability to pre-process and reduce the amount of data from a Web site before it reaches your phone,” said Monday. “This gives you faster navigation, increases your browsing speed and extends your data plan.”

According to Monday, in SA, people pay around R107.49 for 1GB of mobile data, which is 28 times more expensive than India, and almost the same price as in Germany.

“In the first quarter of 2019, the Opera Mini user base in SA saved more than R45 million ($3 million) on mobile data. This means people who choose Opera Mini in SA spend significantly less money on data plans and are able to browse nine times longer than when they use browsers without data compression mode.”

Turning to online privacy in Africa, especially with the continued cyber attacks, particularly in SA, Monday noted Opera became the first major browser to integrate an unlimited and free virtual private network (VPN)into the desktop browser, and earlier this year, announced the inclusion of VPN in Opera’s mobile browser.

“The VPN is free and built into the browser, with no logs tracked, giving users control of their privacy for daily browsing.

“Once you enable it, the VPN will replace the IP address with a virtual IP address that makes it harder for Web sites to track your location and identify your device. It uses a 256-bit encryption algorithm that drastically reduces the risk of third-parties collecting sensitive pieces of personal information.”

Africa’s offline problem

Monday also touched on how businesses on the continent can benefit from digital transformation.

He noted African firms are lagging behind in transforming themselves into entities of the future and it’s concerning.

“One of the major challenges they face is leveraging digital transformation as a means to scale a business, as they still operate offline.

“Opera has prioritised digital growth in Africa after announcing its $100 million investment in 2017. Opera has since focused on bringing more people online, by providing them with fast and secure browsers and mobile applications, such as the Opera Mini browser, the Opera browser for Android, and Opera news.”

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