Background For my Honours research project this year, I analysed ways of increasing user participation in blog-based social networks. The World Bank has compiled an index showing which countries in the world carry the highest and lowest monthly costs to own a mobile phone.
The index measures the monthly cost of running a mobile phone as a percentage of income, in US dollars as well as in purchasing power parity terms (excluding the cost of the phone). According to the group, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the most expensive country to own a mobile phone, with almost 53% of gross national income (GNI) going to mobile phone costs.
This is followed by the Central African Republic (52%) and Madagascar (50%) and Malawi (49%) which all occupy the halfway mark for phone costs in terms of GNI.
On the other side of the spectrum, Macao, China is the cheapest at only 0.1% of GNI on mobile phone costs. South Africa is the 71st cheapest out of 174 countries measured, with costs coming in at 1.66% of gross national income.
The first is in raw dollar terms – in which case Sri Lanka has the cheapest mobile phone usage costs, at $0.97 per month. The other metric is in terms of purchasing power parity – prices adjusted to reflect localised market conditions (in dollar terms).
Twenty years ago, in 1994  Vodacom and MTN launched the first cellular services in South Africa. This was the beginning of in industry which exceeded all expectations and which has become an essential part of life for most South Africans, where the number of registered sim cards exceeds the number of citizens. South Africa used the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard for its mobile services, which was a replacement for first generation (1G) analogue cellular networks.
The GSM standard was still relatively new when Vodacom and MTN launched their first mobile services, and the number of phones were limited at the time.


In the early days of mobile services South Africans had the choice of 5 makes of mobile phone brands from Vodacom – Alcatel, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, and Siemens. The following list provides an overview of the cellphones which Vodacom sold in the early days of mobile services in South Africa. The Alcatel HB100 featured an LCD screen, had dimensions of 170 x 65 x 23mm, and offered a phone memory of 50 entries. The Ericsson GH198 was released in 1993, and featured an LCD display, a built-in clock, alarm, and calculator. The Ericsson GH 337 was one of the coolest phones in its day, weighing only 193g and offering 110 minutes talk time and 25 hours standby time. The Motorola 7200 weighed 272g, and offered 70 minutes talk time and 12 hours standby time. The Motorola 8200 weighed 278g, and offered 60 minutes talk time and 17 hours standby time.
The Nokia 2110 was announced in 1994, and was the first phone with the iconic Nokia tune ringtone. The Siemens S3 sported a “high-resolution” screen (97 x 33 pixels) which could display 4 lines with 16 characters per line. MTN spokespeople said that as far as they can remember, the company offered the following devices when they launched in 1994. The Ericsson GH197, which was well known for its flip antennae, made its debut in 1993 and was one of the first phones launched by MTN. The Nokia 1011, commonly known as the “BRICK” in those days, was one of the first mass-produced GSM phones. The Hagenuk MT-2000, developed and designed in Denmark, was world’s first mobile providing a game to play – Tetris.


The Orbitel 901 was the first GSM mobile in the world to receive official type approval in 1992. My case study was Bonfiire, a multi-community network for discussion and debate, that I co-founded with a friend in 2012.
This was due to the persistance of Craig Knott against the demands of the new ANC led government to to stick with analogue networks.
The phone had dimensions of 141 x 59 x 29mm, and offered 1 hour talk time and 50 hours stand-by time. The phone weighed 236g, had dimensions of 148 x 56 x 25 mm and offered 160 minutes talk time and 30 hours standby time. It boasted a 2 line, 8 character monochrome LCD display, had dimensions of 195 x 60 x 45mm and weighed 495g.
It was also one of the first mobile phones to feature soft keys, and have a built-in antenna. It weighed 275g, and offered talk time of between 70 and 150 minutes, and standby time of between 20 and 40 hours.
It featured a phonebook which could store 125 entries, offered monochrome graphics and supported monophonic ringtones. The memory could hold 99 phone numbers, and the phone offered talk time of 90 minutes and standby time of 15 hours. It had various features, including last dialled and missed call lists, setting ringing volume, ringing type and tones, one key calling and any-key answer.



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