Wi-Fi has become so integrated into our personal and professional lives that we can’t imagine life without it. Naturally, its broad accessibility also makes it an attractive target for cybercriminals. Original Link
Seacom, which operates an undersea cable that connects Africa to Europe and Asia, is not commenting on speculation that it is in talks to buy South African fibre provider FibreCo Telecommunications. Original Link
Internet Solutions may be feeling the pressure from Teraco’s NAPAfrica. The Dimension Data-owned Internet service provider said on Thursday that it plans to become “more open and actively engaged in peering”. Original Link
Dimension Data and its parent, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp, are poised to announce a major restructuring as early as next week, according to sources who claim to have knowledge of the situation. Original Link
By finally publishing regulations on the use of television white spaces (TVWS), communications regulator Icasa has paved the way for two significant turning points in the country’s roll-out of Internet access to its citizens.
The first is the provision of much cheaper broadband networks that offer Internet connectivity to currently underserviced areas — both semi-urban and rural. The second is the potential development of an entirely new, entrepreneurial-flavoured industry to install and manage those networks, creating greater choice for consumers. The best way to understand TVWS technology is to think of our old analogue television sets that we manually tuned in to our favourite stations — remember those?
In this country, where we have only a handful of terrestrial stations, there is a lot of “snow” on the VHF and UHF bands between stations. These are the gaps or “white spaces” that can be used for other broadcasts, or for broadband Internet networks.
Of course, nobody wants interference with their television signal while they are enjoying their favourite series, movie or rugby match. After all, we pay TV licence fees, in part to guarantee clear broadcasts. So, one of the most fundamental issues with TVWS technology is the allocation of those unused channels, in a way that there is no intrusion on the primary users.
This is far easier in South Africa, where we have few broadcasters with a handful of channels each, and where Sentech mostly operates the transmitters for them. In more developed countries, with a multitude of signal distributors and literally hundreds of stations, there are relatively few white spaces. Most African countries share our pattern — few broadcasters, with plentiful spectrum available for secondary use.
Icasa’s regulations have allocated the frequency band 470MHz to 694MHz to TVWS, excluding the radio astronomy sub-band 606MHz to 614MHz, and specify the requirement for a national reference geo-location spectrum database (the GLDB) that has a list of primary users and where they are using their channels in various parts of the country.
This means that any white spaces base stations or devices will regularly ping a database with their GPS coordinates, requesting an empty channel. The database does a look-up of its listed TV transmitters and by calculating which broadcast towers are transmitting and to where, it then allocates the TVWS device a free channel, and if necessary, can instruct it to vacate a channel and move to another.
By granting non-exclusive use of this very desirable spectrum, the cost to network operators is lowered, and spectrum can even be reallocated in the case of a national emergency, where additional radio capacity is required. The 400MHz to 700MHz range is attractive because lower frequencies provide excellent penetration and propagation, making roll-out of mid-speed networks over long distances easy — perfect for underserviced areas.
Of course, this is still all theory. While the technology has been proven in several trials, it’s still bleeding-edge, yet to be rolled out at a large commercial scale.
I suspect that our major mobile network operators might not jump at implementing it themselves, despite their rural roll-out mandates. The fact is that their business models are based on providing as premium a service as their intrinsically expensive infrastructure can offer, to clients that in turn pay a premium for this privilege. Offering “best effort” but uncapped service at the lowest possible cost to the consumer is just not in their DNA.
It is, however, in the DNA of independent wireless operators like those that are members of the Wireless Access Providers’ Association (Wapa), who already use shared spectrum in the Wi-Fi bands to provide low-cost broadband.
Operators do not need vast capital reserves to install TVWS networks in the way that the mobile operators need to fund their infrastructure. A TVWS radio can be obtained for less than US$600, and costs are decreasing rapidly. They are not power-hungry and can easily be solar-powered. And finally, there is no paying of spectrum licence fees.
Internet Solutions’ Roger Hislop argues that it’s time to put Icasa’s regulations into effect
In other words, for TVWS operators the barriers to entry and operating costs are low. This means that the possibility for an entirely new generation of disruptive network service providers to enter the sector is very real.
What will be critical, I believe, is understanding the needs of people in underserviced communities where basic uncapped services costing R20-30/month are essential. I say this because in rural areas, paying even R50/month for an LTE data bundle is incredibly limiting, both financially and practically.
In these areas, running out of data in the middle of a WhatsApp exchange means that these citizens are completely cut off, unable to communicate using the channels that wealthier individuals take for granted. Buying new mobile data is not always easy for people in rural areas, and that’s assuming they can afford it.
For sustainable, practical Internet access for communication and economic participation, underserviced communities must be offered affordable uncapped services.
An organisation like Wapa has many members with exactly the entrepreneurial mindset to lead the way in developing South Africa’s first commercial TVWS broadband networks. The only thing stopping them was a regulatory framework which, as of March this year, we now have.
It is time to put the new regulations into effect — the regulator should appoint an operator of the central “reference” geolocation database. Then exciting times can unfold for the South African telecoms industry. I eagerly anticipate a telecoms revolution — to the benefit of more of our people.
Roger Hislop is senior engineer for research and development at Internet Solutions
Between 1999 and 2004, Telkom’s monopoly of access to crucial international bandwidth and high-speed ADSL lines meant the company could freely charge Internet service providers excessive fees. And they did. Inevitably, this left ISPs — Internet Solutions included — with no choice but to pass costs on to their customers.
We demanded a competitive market, and aggressively lobbied to have Telkom’s wholesale and retail divisions separated to end its monopoly. Under those conditions, we believed that South Africa’s economy and its citizens could not fully realise the benefit of the Internet.
It was a long, tough battle, and it was a great day — I remember it very well — when in 2012 the Competition Commission ruled that Telkom was engaged in “bullying” and “anticompetitive” business practices.
Does industry not want a competitive, fair and level playing field?
To my frustration, both in and outside the context of the wholesale open-access network (Woan) debate, it appears that our local telecommunications industry is working against what should be the bedrock of our industry: a competitive, fair and level playing field. Companies with vested interests in their smaller monopolies are cocooning themselves in legal posturing, adopting a protectionist stance for short-term financial gain.
South Africa’s mobile network operators (MNOs) are nervous about the Woan model proposed by government and are vocal in their opposition. The irony is that they is starting to sound like and resemble our old fixed-line operator.
Arguably, what the mobile operators are trying to protect are new business models that establish themselves as ISPs. This is a natural evolution of a telecoms landscape once dominated by voice services that are history compared to the demand for Internet connectivity and data.
As we continue to communicate for work and play in a new era of wireless communications, the market must open up. Indeed, it is vital that Internet access is unbundled from other value-chain activities. It happened with Telkom, and now it must happen in the mobile space.
I have no doubt that this will stimulate opportunities for new competitors, deliver better pricing, and usher in a more competitive, fairer marketplace. The winners will be South Africa and South Africans.
Let’s stop being side-tracked by the obsession with spectrum. In a country like South Africa, the communication needs of wide-spread rural communities and more densely populated cities means that newer technologies like 5G cannot simply take over from legacy wireless systems like 3G and even 2G. They will still exist alongside for many years to come.
Any qualified engineer in the industry will tell you that there’s enough spectrum. The key is how we use it — or indeed abuse it.
If more competition — to reduce the cost of data and services, increase access to the Internet and stimulate economic development — really is government’s aim, as stated in the 2016 ICT policy white paper, then a Woan is not the answer.
The author, Saki Missaikos, argues that mobile operators should be forced to separate their wholesale and retail operations
After all, no matter who or what kind of enterprise holds a monopoly, network monopolies bring high prices. This is a barrier to access for many South Africans, and negatively impacts the economy and society. The fundamentals of economics dictate that competition reduces abuse of market dominance and produces exactly the price and service results that government wants.
A Woan is not the answer, but many Woans may well be.
I propose that the mobile operators be compelled to separate their wholesale and retail businesses completely as a first step towards achieving the desired outcomes detailed in the policy white paper. This wholesale/retail divorce has sound precedence that should not be ignored. At a wholesale level, there’ll be full price transparency, and all ISPs will be able to compete fairly at a retail level.
By compelling the mobile providers to separate their wholesale and retail businesses fully, several positive outcomes will be achieved:
Industry entrants and existing players that do not own their own infrastructure can build their businesses on the investments made by others, increasing the depth of the market and providing consumers — be they individuals who still want voice services or large enterprises wholly dependent on fibre — with all the benefits of more competition and choice.
Entities that own infrastructure still profit from their investments, encouraging further development of the industry and maintenance of South Africa’s network, which, when compared to much of the continent, is far superior.
A Woan controlled by government or an industry body could be launched in parallel with left over spectrum. This will create a comparative environment that allows all the industry to evaluate the viability of the model for our market.
There is reduced opportunity for any industry player to ingratiate itself with the body managing the Woan for spectrum or any other market advantage.
Allocation of spectrum to those operators that want it — through application or auction — will not be delayed because of a prolonged industry consultation that must precede any significant policy shift.
The commercial interests of South Africa’s mobile operators and ISPs are not at odds with government’s ideals of accessible, affordable, quality Internet connectivity and communications services for all citizens.
We all share these ideals, but they are only achievable in a commercially sound business environment. Regulation must be formulated in the interests of consumers and within a legislative framework that prevents market abuse and eliminates barriers to entry. It must embrace, encourage and stimulate competition, which gives local, even neighbourhood, operators an opportunity to thrive if they develop compelling product and service offerings that perhaps national service providers cannot.
Since its inception in 1993, Internet Solutions has been championing a fair and competitive market and we are not going to stop. We believe that it is not only our duty, but also the duty of the entire industry to fight for the right of South Africa to enjoy all the social and economic benefits of the Internet that come about when it is accessible and affordable to all.
I am not convinced that a single Woan can give South Africa these things, but multiple Woans can.
In this episode of the TechCentral podcast, Duncan McLeod talks to Internet Solutions senior research engineer Roger Hislop about television white-spaces (TVWS) spectrum and how the technology could be used to connect the unconnected.
In the podcast, Hislop explains what TVWS is, how it works and why it could be transformative for the telecommunications industry and for end users.
He explains why the technology could deliver Internet access to people at significantly lower cost than what is available from mobile operators today and why it will allow new entrants into the industry.
Hislop talks about the two TVWS trials that were conducted in South Africa — in the Western Cape and Limpopo — and the recent introduction by communications regulator Icasa of regulations to govern the introduction of commercial services, and why this is significant.
When can South Africans expect to see commercial services rolled out on the back of those regulations, who is likely to build TVWS networks and what sort of equipment will be needed to deploy infrastructure?
It’s a great discussion — don’t miss it!
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Dimension Data division Internet Solutions said on Monday that it has reached an agreement with Cell C that will allow it to expand its 4G/LTE service offering, providing customers with an alternative to fixed broadband.
Internet service providers that buy capacity from Internet Solutions can choose from a selection of Cell C packages ranging from 50GB/month to 200GB/month, with the option to top up with 30-day packages ranging from 1GB to 20 GB, managed through Internet Solutions’ billing and management platform.
Cell C has 2 900 LTE base stations in the metropolitan areas of Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, operating in the 1.8GHz and 2.1GHz bands.
“High-density LTE coverage offers distinct advantages over wired networks such as ADSL or fibre, and customers benefit from fast delivery of services with minimal disruption during installation, at lower capital and environmental costs,” said Internet Solutions chief solutions and operating officer Tony Walt.
The company said it has taken a network and technology agnostic approach to the South African market, emphasising open access.
In mid-2017, Internet Solutions signed an agreement with Rain (formerly Wireless Business Solutions) to offer Internet service providers access to the latter’s 4G/LTE-Advanced wireless broadband network. Under that deal, the company acts as Rain’s “open access” go-to-market partner for its fixed LTE-A product.
Wireless Business Solutions was acquired in 2015 by Multisource, with backing from top former bankers Michael Jordaan and Paul Harris, before being renamed as Rain in 2017. — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media
Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions said on Tuesday that its CloudConnect international colocation connectivity solution will interconnect with Microsoft’s Azure data centres in South Africa when they go live in the coming months.
CloudConnect has been incorporated into Microsoft’s Azure ExpressRoute network, it said.
Azure ExpressRoute clients in Africa will link directly to the Microsoft Cloud — including Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 — hosted in the software giant’s local data centres.
This will significantly increase the performance of Internet Solutions customers using Microsoft’s cloud services in South Africa, said executive Gopal Govinder.
Govinder said average latency between South Africa and London is less than 180 milliseconds, whereas Internet Solutions’ terrestrial network latency is under 20ms.
The company plans to extend the service to wholesale clients in the rest of Africa, too. It will continue to connect clients to Microsoft’s expanded suite of products available through London and Amsterdam exchange points.
Microsoft plans to open the Azure data centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town before mid-2018, after announcing plans to build them last year.
In November, data centre operator Teraco said it would be a Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute connectivity partner.
“Clients will be able to connect directly to Azure ExpressRoute via the Teraco Cloud Exchange in both Johannesburg and Cape Town,” it said at the time. — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media
Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions said on Tuesday that it is expanding its Parklands data centre in Johannesburg to cope with growing demand. It is spending R500m on the expansion.
The first phase of the “prefabricated” extension to the facility will come online in July 2018 and will contain 130 racks. Subsequent modules will be ordered in configurations best suited to meet client demands, the company said in a statement.
On completion, the data centre will provide a total capacity of 572 racks and 2.2MW of IT power.
The Parklands facility hosts the Johannesburg Internet Exchange peering point.
Both Sandton and the Johannesburg CBDs are within a 10km radius of Parklands, which is situated in the fast-growing Rosebank node.
“Thanks to its location, the existing Parklands facility already delivers minimal latency with capacity set to double on expansion,” said Internet Solutions executive for data centres Matthew Ashe. “As we install future modules, we can scale density up or down, decrease racks or increase cooling…”
The civil works have already begun, while the prefabricated modules are built, tested, dismantled and then shipped from Europe in parallel. “There is a four- to six-month lead time for additional modules, which arrive with flooring, cooling and uninterrupted power systems already in place.” — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media
Comsol, a telecommunications company backed by Nedbank, the Industrial Development Corporation and Andile Ngcaba’s Convergence Partners, will launch the first fifth-generation (5G) network in South Africa next month.
The company, based in Midrand in Johannesburg, will launch a trial 5G network, with live customers, in partnership with Internet service providers with a view to launching a commercial 5G network thereafter. Several high sites will be used for the trial, which will take place in Gauteng.
Even though the standards for 5G are still being bedded down internationally, Comsol CEO Iain Stevenson believes the time is right to launch a network in South Africa using the technology.
Comsol has a big chunk of radio frequency spectrum in a band that is being set aside for 5G in the US by the Federal Communications Commission, meaning there will be access to a wide range of equipment able to serve the South African market, Stevenson said.
Comsol is already in talks to bring the test equipment into South Africa, though Stevenson declined to name the technology provider. The equipment will be pre-release hardware, but ready to be deployed in the local market on a trial basis.
The company has 280MHz of licensed spectrum around the 28GHz band, which it plans to use to build the 5G network. If the tests prove successful, the company could move quickly to build a network of national scope.
The trial will go live next month, and Comsol will work with existing go-to-market partners. It has close relationships with companies such as Vox and Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions.
The trial will consist of a fixed-wireless access network using a number of existing high sites. Because of the high frequency to be utilised, the cell size will be relatively small — coverage will be within about 2km of each base station. But Stevenson is optimistic the 5G “point-to-multipoint” network will be able to deliver 1Gbit/s access speeds to each of the business customers that use it.