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MTN unveils a music streaming and downloading platform

MTN South Africa debuted MTN Music+, a subscription based music streaming and download platform.

Music+ is the only platform that offers its users the ability to simultaneously stream and download music and videos offline. Music+ subscribers can also share music and videos with friends and preview tracks under the same user profile. MTN subscribers can access Music+ through the web and mobile devices, and the service is compatible with a range of operating systems including iOS, Android and BlackBerry.

Larry Annetts, Chief Marketing Officer of MTN SA, says one of the key differentiators of Music+ is that the content is heavily biased in favour of music content from South Africa and across the continent.

“MTN Music+ seeks to develop local content and give aspiring artists a platform to showcase their talent to a captive audience of millions of users across the continent. Music+ expands the artists’ distribution footprint beyond the narrow confines of their home markets and beyond conventional means. We are pleased to avail this service which we believe will contribute to the development of music across the continent,” says Annetts.

“Huawei is our technology partner and will assist in supporting this platform, we are very excited by the outcome of our partnership with them,” says Annetts.

Edric Chu, Managing Director of Huawei Technologies, says his company is proud of the role it has played to help MTN to bring this service to its customers.

“The Music+ platform is designed to provide users with an interactive, user-friendly service. The service is optimized for mobile and online access to enhance user experience and it requires no significant device restrictions or additional device requirements. Huawei is proud to be part of this initiative that will revolutionise music in South Africa and across the continent,” says Edric Chu.

To access MTN Music+ customers can download it from the Google Play Store or visiting http://musicplus.mtn.co.za/desktop.

Xenophobia: MTN Abuja reports false, says cellphone provider

By News24 Agency staff

 Cellphone provider MTN denied reports out of Nigeria on Thursday that its office in Abuja had to shut down after coming under attack because of xenophobic violence in South Africa.

“It is causing huge reputational damage,” MTN executive for group corporate affairs Chris Maroleng told News24.

He said there was peaceful protest action outside its Abuja office on Tuesday – not Wednesday, as reported – and a memorandum was handed over.

The only “disruption” was for about an hour when MTN staff could not access the building due to the protest outside, said Maroleng.

The Daily Sun newspaper was quoted on the website Naij.com as saying that more than 100 youths converged at the MTN premises, carrying placards with different inscriptions.

Based on this, News24 earlier reported that the MTN office immediately shut down its operations and suspended its service, but Maroleng said this information was false.

“Our business is fully operational,” said Maroleng. –  News24

Xenophobia: Nigeria youths ‘attack MTN office in Abuja’

By News Agency staff
MTN’s regional office in Abuja reportedly shut down its operations on Wednesday following attacks by irate youths presumably protesting over the on-going xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

Quoting the Daily Sun newspaper, Naij.com said a group of more than 100 youths converged at the MTN premises carrying placards with different inscriptions.

Apparently worried that more attacks could follow, the MTN office immediately shut down its operations, the report said.

MTN staff said services would be suspended until the xenophobic attacks faded away and stability returned to South Africa.

MTN Nigeria warned early this week that any attack on its facilities could force it to close shop, a development that could see at least 99% of its over 6 000 workforce in the country become jobless, a newswirengr.com report said.

This comes as Nigeria’s foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned South Africa’s High Commissioner over anti-immigrant violence.

According to a Reuters report, the ministry said the essence of the meeting was to register Nigeria’s protest over the on-going xenophobic attacks against fellow Africans in South Africa.

The ministry also called on authorities to quell the unrest and bring those involved to book.

Isolated counter-protests involving a few dozen people have occurred in Nigeria, an economy in which South African firms such as mobile phone giant MTN and supermarket chain Shoprite have large stakes, the report said. – News24

Telkom Wholesale cut prices to ‘increase’ broadband access

By Staff writer

Telkom Wholesale Services announced on Thursday it will cut wholesale unit price by up to 63% across its product range.

Effective 1 May 2015 Telkom’s Wholesale customers can expect the following price adjustments:

  •  Rate reductions of up to 10% on the Wholesale Fibre Broadband Access product range
  • Price adjustments of between 6% and 25% across the SAIX product range
  • Tariff reductions of between 1.4% and 63% across the IP Connect product range
  • Tariff reductions of between 35% and 40% across the Metro Ethernet product range

“Telkom has chosen a clear path to democratise data access to all South Africans. We believe that these major price adjustments and our renewed focus on value will go far in serving our customers, the industry and ultimately, the socio-economic development of South Africa,” said Telkom’s MD of Wholesale Services Prenesh Padayachee.

“As part of our turnaround strategy we recognise that we have an important role to play in enabling our customers to deliver on the connectivity demands that South African’s have come to expect. Our investment in next generation networks and applications is aimed at driving the penetration of broadband and thereby enabling our customers to grow the market,” he said.

Samsung makes traceable tablets for school market

By Ujuh

Samsung Electronics South Africa and Absolute Software have partnered to offer a traceability feature in selected Samsang tablets targeted for schooling use. The initiative can be taken as displaying Samsung’s hunger for the emerging tablet for schooling market which promises to be a multi-billion dollar affair.

In a statement released this week the companies said the Absolute Computrace solution should afford peace of mind to schools, learners and parents about security of tablets which are finding increasing use in South African schools but are targeted by criminals.

The Absolute Computrace is embedded technology available on a select range of Samsung devices. The statement said once it is loaded and the subscription is activated, the Absolute Computrace agent is self-healing and persistent. This means that if the tablet has been stolen and all the data has been wiped and the Android Operating System re-installed, Absolute Computrace will re-activate automatically, ensuring the device can be tracked and managed as long as the device is connected to the internet.

The statement said unlike other track and trace solutions that require an application to always be installed on the device, Absolute Computrace is embedded within the firmware on a select range of Samsung tablets – including the Galaxy Tab 4 10.1″ device – thus allowing Absolute Computrace to survive a factory reset, ensuring the device is always tracked and managed for customers who subscribe to the service.

The potential of the emerging tablet for schooling market is displayed in the energy of Gauteng MEC for education, Panyaza Lesufi, in his one child one tablet campaign.

MTN SA posts muted subscriber growth

By Gugu Lourie

MTN SA results for the first quarter in 2015 show that there isn’t much operational fuel in the company as the subscriber base hasn’t risen much, but as expected data users rose 18.1% to 17.2m.

During the three months to end-March 2014, MTN SA had 28m subscribers, showing a weak quarter and data usage increased 62,6%.

“This was impacted by seasonality, some short-term challenges in the distribution channel and lower handset sales,” the company said on Thursday.

The company added that it continues to focus on cost containment.

MTN’s footprint spans 22 countries across Africa and the Middle East, a far more extensive footprint than that of rival Vodacom.

The group reported a satisfactory subscriber growth of 1,8% quarter-on-quarter, adding 4,1m subscribers, to 227,5m total customers.

“MTN’s results for the quarter were impacted by a weaker macro-economic environment following the reduction in the price of oil in 2014 and continued price competition. MTN Nigeria is improved subscriber growth trends although  revenue and minutes growth remains a challenge. While South African operation’s subscriber growth was impacted by  seasonality and some operational challenges, revenue growth was encouraging. We continue to focus on our non-voice services which remain the key driver of the Group’s revenue growth,” said MTN Group CEO, Sifiso Dabengwa.

The South African-based mobile phone operator said its Nigerian operation increased its subscriber base by 2,1% to 61,1m.  Total minutes on the network declined by 2,0%  impacted largely by seasonality,  and declined 2,4% year-on-year mainly due to increasing inflation and reduced consumer spend.

While MTN Irancell increased its subscriber base by 1,1% to 44,4m in a highly penetrated market.

“The operation remains strongly focused on the expansion of 3G and 4G networks as well as providing attractive  bundled data packages. At the end of the quarter MTN Irancell business had 2,959 3G sites on air and 993 LTE sites  on air,” said MTN.

MTN Syria continues to operate in extremely challenging conditions reporting a decline in its subscriber base by 1,9% to 5,7 million. “Security, power restrictions, staff retention and diesel availability remain some of the key challenges,” firm said.

MTN Ghana continued to perform well despite a weak macro-economic environment. The operation grew its subscriber base 2,6% to 14,2 million, largely attributable to attractive “win a prize” promotions encouraging customers to talk, text and browse.

Google Maps released the first ­ever Street View imagery of Robben Island

Google Maps released the first ­ever Street View imagery of Robben Island, as well as an audio-­visual tour hosted on Google Cultural Institute, on Wednesday, 22 April, five days ahead of South Africa’s Freedom Day.

In an effort to marry history with the future, Google and Robben Island Museum partnered to make this global heritage landmark virtually accessible to the world via the internet, the Museum said in a statement.

Luke McKend, Country Director for Google South Africa, explained the intentional launch of the project five days ahead of Freedom Day in South Africa, is because “Robben Island is a symbol of South Africa’s fight for freedom,” and they hope to educate people around the world about this heritage, allowing them to explore the island from any device, anywhere in the world.

The newly launched guided tour of the Island includes a virtual visit to South Africa’s first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela’s prison cell and activist Robert Sobukwe’s house. The imagery and tour provides glimpses into the story of the Island and some of its famous prisoners.

The partnership hopes to involve and educate younger generations, especially, by using the Google app and new technology to infiltrate classrooms, and social spaces with educational matter.

Former anti-Apartheid prisoner Ahmed Kathrada says, “Not being able to see or interact with children for 20 years was possibly the most difficult thing to endure during my time on the island… There is therefore a kind of poetic justice that children in classrooms all over the world will now be able to visit Robben Island using this technology,” he says. As part of this project, Google Maps will also develop teaching notes on Robben Island for educators who will be using this interactive tour as an educational tool.Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, is very optimistic about the partnership, said “The internet is the world’s most powerful source of information and thanks to Google’s partnership with the Robben Island Museum, more people than ever before have access to this World Heritage Site.
“We hope that this initiative not only allows for the world to reflect on South Africa’s struggle for freedom, but also showcase its beauty,” Hanekom said.

This improvement of the island’s visitor experience comes after The Robben Island Museum announced in April this year that they will overhaul the ailing user experience on the island. The app and partnership with Google is but one of the first step in the overall improvement of the island, the museum said.

Sibongiseni Mkhize, Robben Island Museum CEO, said the educational element of the island will be highlighted with this new partnership. “The reason Robben Island is now a museum is to educate people about the part of South Africa’s heritage that is embodied in the island’s multi-layered history. Together with Google we are making this heritage accessible to people all over the world,” he said.

The Robben Island interactive tour can be accessed on mobile phones, from desktops and from Google’s Cultural Institute, where Robben Island Museum will host five exhibits depicting the history for the Island.

The app can be downloaded at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.culturalspot.mobile.robbenislandmuseum

The Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory also confirmed it would update their Cultural Institute exhibits with new layouts and add Street View panoramas of Robben Island. Traveller24

The converged network – a business reality

By Shane Chorley

There is no doubt that converged networks are no longer the things of fiction, or speculation in the ICT market.  Lowered costs to connect, as well as more pervasive and freely available high speed broadband are two critical contributors to this move to a single network for voice and data.

But it is not only businesses that are seeing the benefits of a converged network.  End users are amongst the most prolific adopters of converged network infrastructure, but very few of them know it.

Why now?  What is different about the ICT, connectivity and broadband infrastructure today, versus five years ago, when we first heard of converged networks?

For the first time in our telecommunications history, the elusive last mile is no longer an obstacle for broadband services.  We are lighting up homes and businesses without the incumbent, and the next two years promise to be get even better.

While much has been written about network convergence, and the limitations of applications and services, this is being bolstered by cloud services and solutions that fit neatly into the technology stack.

For many – the converged network is as real as the devices that we are already using. In our homes, or workplace.

How you may ask?  By their very design and evolution of their purpose. Our handsets and devices, and the converged services available, be it voice on Whatsapp and Google Talk, the ability to use Skype for instant messaging, voice and video calls.  Combined with the traditional data services offered by these applications showcase a converged network in every transaction.

So, with the issues of the last mile resolved, increased availability of high speed internet, and an infrastructure that makes it a reality, what is holding business back?  For many organisations, it is the established, and more traditionally oriented IT department.  And for the most part, these IT departments are reluctant to abandon their separate voice and data networks, citing cost, security, quality and IT complexity as potential inhibitors.

Converged networks have come with a growth in consolidated, and in fact, converged providers and vendors.  The advantage of selecting a vendor that offers not only networking solutions, but also cloud services and applications is reduced costs and complexity, but more importantly a partner that understands your IT and technology requirements throughout your businesses growth.

More importantly, if selected carefully, a single vendor means a watertight service level agreement (SLA) that best meets the deliverables and outputs required for driving cost efficiencies, always uptime and quality of service.

It is clear that converged networks not only provide a platform for voice and data connectivity, but increasingly the services and applications that make businesses tick.

  • Shane Chorley is an executive head: carrier and connectivity at Vox Telecom

 

Mobile data usage in townships is accelerating rapidly

Mobile data usage in townships is accelerating rapidly, placing pressure on mobile networks. Vodacom has developed a solution allowing mobile base stations to be retrofitted to shipping container shops, allowing for the rapid roll-out of coverage.

By Staff writer

Mobile data usage is growing strongly across South Africa, driven by the rapid uptake of smartphones and tablets. With the increasing availability of low-cost devices, data usage has hit the mainstream and traffic volume growth in townships is running well-ahead of the average growth rate countrywide. This presents a particular coverage challenge for mobile networks, with high population density and a relative lack of formal infrastructure making it difficult to build new base stations to address this demand growth. Vodacom, however, has developed a new solution which involves retrofitting a compact base station to the roof of existing shipping container shops.

A standard mobile base station typically has a site footprint of 30 square metres or more. This includes a mast, which is usually 15-25 metres tall and supports the radio antennae that connect to mobile devices. In addition, each site has an equipment storage building to house radio and power equipment. The cost of each installation varies, but can be in the region of R1.5 million.

VDC-Container2

Speaking about the challenges of building new base station sites in townships, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport said: “We’re seeing data volumes in Gauteng’s townships almost doubling year on year, which is well-ahead of the average growth rate countrywide. Identifying and building new sites to cater for this in densely populated areas has been difficult, and on top of that site security can be an issue.

“Our engineers went back to the drawing board and developed an entirely different approach. They repackaged the base station equipment inside a compact steel structure that is then bolted to the roof of existing shipping container shops. This means that new sites can be rolled out quite literally within weeks as opposed to the typical 12-18 month lead time to build new base stations.”

In addition to having a smaller footprint of nine square meters and being able to utilise existing infrastructure, these new base stations are more energy efficient and cost less than half the amount needed to build a traditional site.

VDC-Container3

 

Vodacom plans to roll out five sites as an initial test, the first of which to go live is in the Alexandra township. These test sites provide mobile coverage over a radius of up to 1.5km and can service 5,000 subscribers at peak times.

“This solution isn’t just about mobile coverage. The shops located in containers typically sell airtime, m-pesa, and telephone services. With a base station located on their roof, we’ll support the shop with an additional source of income, and they in turn provide us with added site security. It makes us part of the community,” said Delport.

As of 31 December 2014, Vodacom had 16.8 million active data customers and data traffic countrywide had grown 62% year on year. The number of smartphones and tablets active on the network was 9.5 million devices, up 24% on the prior year. The average amount of data used per smartphone was 358 MB per month.

Ruckus Wireless beefing up its presence in SA

Ruckus Wireless, a US-based global WiFi firm, is benefitting from the growth of WiFi services in South Africa and the rest of the continent.

The New York Stock Exchange-listed firm is beefing up its presence in the country to service its growing partners
and customers.

The Silicon Valley-headquartered company, which manufactures and markets WiFi products, believes the lack of ICT infrastructure on the continent offers more growth.

The provisioning of free WiFi services is becoming a continent-wide trend. The City of Tshwane, which is in partnership with Project Isizwe, is already deploying free WiFi. The City of Cape Town is also providing WiFi to open internet access to the masses and the City of Johannesburg is in the process of building its own WiFi network.

Other African cities are also deploying public-free WiFi and governments are looking for solutions.

To benefit from this growth, Ruckus Wireless has set up an office in Midrand to be used as a headquarters to support
its partners and customers in the Sub- Saharan region.

Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless, Sub-Saharan Africa, says: “As [the region is] an emerging market, Ruckus Wireless saw this as an opportunity to provide viable wireless technology solutions and as an opportunity to get closer to our customers.”

The company provides smart indoor and outdoor WiFi products designed to for speed, increased capacity and reliability.

“We felt that the most effective way to build a local base in a market that we were operating in would be to have in-country presence. This is also our way of investing in the region.”

The company’s technology addresses WiFi capacity and coverage challenges caused by the ever-increasing amount
of traffic on wireless networks due to accelerated adoption of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

In many other African countries, especially Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, there is potential for the development of public WiFi infrastructure, and it would make sense for Ruckus Wireless to expand its services into some of those
states.

Asked to comment on whether the US-based firm believes that there are enough growth opportunities for its WiFi products in the rest of Africa,

Fletcher said: “Africa is considered an emerging market and the lack of ICT infrastructure allows room for the wireless landscape to service the shortfalls to ensure that consumers receive seamless network connectivity.

Michael Fletcher sales director sub-Saharan Africa at Ruckus Wireless
Michael Fletcher sales director sub-Saharan Africa at Ruckus Wireless

“We definitely see massive room for growth for the continent and we hope that our services offerings that cater to the African continent will assist in bridging the gap that is still being experienced locally when compared to international counterparts.”

Fletcher wouldn’t be drawn into commenting about how much capital the firm is planning to invest in SA.

“We don’t view monetary investments as the only investment option. In our line of business we also focus on training our partners to be more self-sufficient.

“We also invest in labs for experimenting interesting WiFi scenarios. Sometimes our customers want to know if certain projects would work and we open our lab for them to evaluate the success of such scenarios,” he explains.

Asked to comment on how the company will comply with BBBEE regulations, Fletcher says: “As an American WiFi equipment manufacturer we don’t personally trade in SA – this is done through our partners who have the necessary documentation to fulfil such needs.”

US firms such as Microsoft, for example, have opted to invest in local business because they cannot sell a stake in their South African units for regulatory and other reasons.

Ruckus Wireless is also not planning to set up a manufacturing plant in SA.

Fletcher says: “As we continue to grow our footprint and customer base in Africa, it can lead to such conversations
in the future, but currently this is not part of our strategy.”