Phone shop operators use the prepaid cellular technology to deliver a telephone service to the community. By providing this service, phone shop entrepreneurs are able to generate an income by charging customers for calls. Prepaid calls are subsidized by the cell phone company as part of a social responsibility commitment required of major cell phone companies.
Phone shop operators use a product known as the SIGI (Siemens GMS Interface). The Sigi Pro (Siemens GSM Interface) is a prepaid telephone service that works by integrating payphone and GSM technology. The product enables entrepreneurs to establish immediate communication channels via the GSM network without having to wait for the installation of fixed lines. The service offers the unique integration of voice, data and fax facilities and is equipped with a metering unit for billing purposes. Standard fax machines, as well as PCs, can also be connected to the control units, allowing access to Internet and e-mail.
It also serves to offer highly subsidised call rates to the public and would generate sufficient revenue to sustain it as a stand-alone business. The phone shop concept has not only seen new small entrepreneurs emerge onto the business arena but has resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs. Using technology known as Sigi Autocharge, a cell phone shop owner is able to operate in under-serviced areas to buy bulk airtime, using banking facilities for which they previously did not qualify.
Phone shop operations and the services they offer, have become as much a necessity to the communities as other basic services, such as water and electricity. Interest in the Sigi Pro extends beyond South Africa’s borders. This phone system has also been deployed in Uganda, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Cell phone company