GPRS fuels South Africa’s cash machine rollout

The growing presence of bank-independent cash machines in the South African market has been boosted this year by the adoption of GPRS wireless technology that enables rapid installation of new cash machines, even in the most remote areas.

ATM Solutions is a provider of independent cash machines, with machines installed in retail outlets, forecourts, hospitals and other non-traditional locations around the country. The company decided at the end of 2005 to base all its new installations on a locally developed technology known as CellPAD.

CellPAD, produced by Cape Town-based Datalinx Technologies, is a point of sale and transaction processing device that uses the cell phone companies’ GPRS network for all communications.

“GPRS is much cheaper than using a landline,” says Gavin Reubenson, technical director of ATM Solutions, “and it is also more widely available. There is network coverage in 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the sites that we have tested.”

Reubenson says the company has rolled out about 600 CellPAD cash machines since the wireless option was piloted in December last year, and is averaging around 80 new installations a month. “It takes about ten days from identifying a site to having an ATM installed,” he says. “Wireless gives us great flexibility and ease of installation.”

As a result, he says, many rural towns in areas like the former Transkei and the KwaZulu-Natal south coast now have cash machines for the first time.

“It is not feasible in many of those towns for the banks to have their own branded cash machines because they need a lot of transactions to break even,” he says. “Our cost base is a lot lower.”

The CellPAD technology is robust and reliable, he says, and most problems that do arise can be solved remotely. “We asked Datalinx to develop a CellPAD Manager that would let us troubleshoot and diagnose problems remotely from our call centre,” he says. “We can fix most things without ever visiting the site.”