After a lot of speculation and a questionable leak of what looked like too-good-to-be-true telco plans, webe is finally live. Who or what is webe? It's the new name for Packet One Networks, better known as P1. P1 was Malaysia's first commercial WiMAX provider and then Telekom Malaysia (TM) came along and bought a majority stake (55.3 per cent) in the company.
TM had, so far, been quiet about its plans for P1 but it seems that the company is taking a different tack - instead of just creating another mobile telco to go head-to-head with Digi, Celcom and Maxis, it is instead trying to brand webe as a community. At least, at first.
The name itself comes from the combination of the words "we" and "be" which they call "an awakening to the fact that 'we is greater than me'."
What webe is pushing right now is its 'crowdbacking' platform where the masses will vote via a special app and instead of pledging funds, users of the app can just pledge support for various projects via votes or 'webits'. The projects listed include an app to track dengue outbreaks, a movie about how Malaysians would handle zombie outbreaks as well as an original English pop compilation album featuring local artistes.
It costs nothing for users to sign up and on registering, users get 50 webits free to spend on projects of their choosing. Once enough votes are garnered, a project is then unlocked and funded. Like standard crowdfunding projects, if they don't get enough votes or, well, webits, the projects will not be funded.
In a long Facebook posting, webe explained its ethos thus:"We listened, and people told us they want to make a difference, to create positive change. Malaysians at large told us they didn’t like and were frustrated with the status quo – speed, quota, price, contract, customers service and more."
It'd be interesting to see just who webe were talking to because the reactions to the announcement have been, so far, mixed. Quite a few users expressed disappointment at not seeing new plans though webe did say it was still in the process of testing out new offerings. For users who were expecting an exciting entrant to the telco scene, they might be disappointed.
Still, it's not a bad idea for a telco to try to give back more to the community instead of just hawking the cheapest plan around. But the problem here lies in the execution - the feel good messaging will not appeal to the kind of users who started the Maxis furore, the ones who will be asking "What's in it for me?" What's in it for them, indeed.