VODACOM on Wednesday made playing the National Lottery easier when it launched a service that allows customers across all mobile networks to buy tickets via their cellphones or computers.

Mobile operators are introducing a growing number of value-added services that complement traditional services in a bid to retain customers.

"We're taking convenience to the next level. Customers will now be able to play the National Lottery anywhere, even in the comfort of their own homes, saving them time and money," said Prins Mhlanga, managing executive of Vodacom Digital Media.

"They also don't need to worry about losing their National Lottery tickets because they will have a record of all the games played," he said.

When customers register to play online, an electronic wallet is created. They must place money in the wallet via an electronic funds transfer or a cash deposit at any of the big four banks. Winners are notified via SMS and funds are automatically credited to their electronic wallets.

Mr Mhlanga said Vodacom's new service - launched in partnership with Gidani, operator of the National Lottery, and Lidonga Technology and Telecoms - provided "absolute convenience in that customers can now play any time and any place".

First National Bank already enables its customers to buy lottery tickets online.

On Wednesday, Vodacom also unveiled a new insurance product that will give loyal mobile payment - or "m-pesa" - customers funeral cover of up to R10000.

"There's no better way to give our customers peace of mind than to provide funeral cover at no additional cost. All they have to do is purchase airtime using m-pesa," said Mark Taylor, managing executive of financial services at Vodacom.

In the near future, customers will be able to buy other products such as prepaid electricity, he said.

Vodacom was granted a short- and long-term insurance licence last year, allowing it to sell funeral cover. It is already providing insurance for handsets, laptops and tablets.

It appointed Frank.net, the direct life investment company owned and capitalised by Liberty Holdings, to provide administrative and claims support for its long-term insurance offering.

. Visit www.vodacom.co.za/lotto to buy tickets online, or vodacom.mobi/lotto via your cellphone.

mochikot@bdfm.co.za