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Econet Launches Kwesé Play in SA, Brings Roku box, Netflix

By Staff Writer

Econet, the owners of Liquid Telecom, has introduced its Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service Kwesé Play in South Africa.

The firm through Econet Media is bringing Kwesé Play video streaming service to the country.

The company will leverage Africa’s largest fibre network, available through sister company Liquid Telecom which concluded its acquisition of Neotel last year.  Neotel holds leading-edge 4G and 5G LTE spectrum capability which is being configured to carry video content.

Rather than building its own VOD business, Econet Media has taken a different approach and invested in building the best platform to house some of the biggest names in VOD globally.

Kwesé is the exclusive African partner for Roku and will provide an own-branded Roku box to South African customers.

It also launched a Roku box bundled with Netflix.

The custom-built Roku is priced at R1,599.

It is already available from Liquid Telecom, Cellucity, FNB, Incredible Connection and Vox.

Kwesé Play is now available across South Africa through leading retailers
Kwesé Play is now available across South Africa through leading retailers

Kwesé Play is targeted mainly at fibre-to-the-home broadband users.

Each Kwesé Play Roku also includes a 3-month subscription to Netflix’s standard plan.

The company has streaming deals with RedBull TV, TED, YouTube, etc and provides more than 100 Video on Demand services.

Kwesé Play is now available across South Africa through leading retailers
Kwesé Play is now available across South Africa through leading retailers

Kwesé also announced the launch of a long-term partnership with Netflix for Sub-Saharan Africa, leveraging Kwesé’s pan-African reach to help make it easier for African consumers to enjoy Netflix.

“Our strategy is to provide the best in VOD via a superior network. We’ve partnered with the best in IPTV hardware and content to offer our viewers world-class programming through our fibre network infrastructure,” said Joseph Hundah, Econet Media’s president and CEO.

This South African Startup Wants to Challenge Twitter, Facebook’s Dominance

Queenstown born entrepreneur Siviwe Mgolodela, who is a BCom student at Stellenbosch University majoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, is the brains behind Unorthodox, a start-up company.

Unorthodox aims to take on popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

“Presently, people are under so much pressure to look, feel and think a certain way to impress their friends and their followers. As a result, people end up unconsciously communicating lies,” Mgolodela, the founder of Unorthodox, told Techfinancials in an interview over the phone.

“Unorthodox is the alternative to existing platforms in that all that pressure is taken away”.

Queenstown born entrepreneur Siviwe Mgolodela
Queenstown born entrepreneur Siviwe Mgolodela (Photo Credit” Siviwe)

Mgolodela promises “freedoms” that he said were not available on social media platforms.

Rather than worrying about what other people will think, Unorthodox wants its users to express themselves and talk about topics and their emotions freely.

“100% anonymity equates to 0% shame,” Mgolodela explains.

“Where else will users get a chance to anonymously share their raw emotions, problems and candid views on a social networking platform? Certainly not on Facebook or LinkedIn.”

Unorthodox launches on Wednesday next week, 20 September 2017.

Mgolodela said his Unorthodox concept has been tested with a few of his friends to find out what they think about the social network.

He said a live demo of the Unorthodox social network will be released on Friday, 15 September to a select few “to test” it out before the launch.

The ambitious student entrepreneur said his anonymous social platform will, at present, focus on the South African market.

“I plan on targeting Africa in the upcoming year or two, and only after conquering the African continent, will I then target the rest of the world”.

Asked about the choice of the name “Unorthodox”, the Stellenbosch student said: “The word stems from the message behind the social network – that it is okay to be different; to think different; to feel different; essentially it is okay to be unorthodox”.

Unorthodox logo
Unorthodox logo (Photo Credit: Siviwe Mgolodela)

He said the inspiration behind this social network came from his belief that “people unconsciously communicating lies” on social networks.

Unorthodox is being developed by Klensch Lucas.

Mgolodela is relying on a lot of bootstrapping mechanisms to get this project off the ground.

“For instance, instead of hiring an experienced web developer or outsourcing the project to a web developing company, I chose to hire an underdog whose talent I believed in,” said Mgolodela.

“As a result, the cost of developing the social network was not as high as one would expect.

“Once the social network traffic increases exponentially, I will make use of other forms of funding, such as approaching venture capitalists.

“However, bootstrapping is still a strategy that I intend on utilizing for a while”.

He said Unorthodox will “liberate people to be their true selves”.

Facebook
Facebook (Photo Credit: https://www.shutterstock.com)

Users will be able to express their true emotions and thoughts, as opposed to acting all cool for the sake of garnering likes and followers.

“I want people to realise that there is more to them than a mere selfie; that we are more alike than we are different,” said Mgolodela.

“I want people to share their life experiences by seeing the world through the eyes of someone else without any of the pretense of trying to impress anyone.

“Social media is presently ruining our emotional intelligence.”

He said Unorthodox wants to make it cool for people to talk about their real emotions on its social network.

“Presently, we see that with the emphasis being placed on selfies and filters, our emotions seem to be chucked away in a box somewhere with this huge stigma that it is not cool to feel,” said Mgolodela.

“Ultimately, I want my users to feel empowered in knowing that they are not alone and that they are not freaks for being unorthodox; that if they are feeling or thinking a certain way, chances are someone out there can relate – that way we get to share our experiences in an authentic manner.

“I wanted to address topics that mainstream social media doesn’t always want to talk about – i.e. depression and anxiety.

“I would say that the message behind this social network is that it is okay to be different; to think different; to feel different. I want people to share in their varied emotions; opinions; views and problems.”

Unorthodox hopes to entice millions of users.

martphone open Twitter application
Smartphone open Twitter application (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

One wonders whether it will be easy for the local startup to challenge the global giants of social media platforms that are loved by many in our country.

But, Mgolodela is unfazed by the popularity of the big social networks.

“I absolutely think (it will be easy to attract new users), because people are becoming increasingly annoyed with the perfect illusion created by social media because none of it is real. People are yearning for actual social interaction, as opposed to mere selfie and video sharing,” he explains.

“I think people would appreciate a platform to just vent about their relationship problems, their pain, anger, sadness, and frustration.

“A platform to confess their secrets and to converse openly about topics that mainstream social media doesn’t always want to talk about, i.e. depression and anxiety.”

The question remains will Unorthodox be a hit with local users?

The Connected Things: SA’s Battle to Deliver Internet of Things Solutions

by Gugu Lourie

The stage to do battle for a connected user is being laid by tech firms – Comsol, Sigfox and Vula Telematix – in a lucrative race to connect homes, farmers, doctors, patients, cars, utilities, and other everyday devices such as fridges and washing machines, etc. to smartphones.

In the meantime, telco’s are setting up their Internet of Things (IoT) platforms to lure customers.

IoT, previously machine-to-machine (M2M), is a concept of connecting devices – ranging from refrigerators, geysers, smart electric meters, coffee makers, etc. – to the internet. Our smartphones, tablets, laptops and even refrigerators make up the Internet of Things. In fact, any device which is connected to the internet makes up the Internet of Things.

IoT is likely to expedite the next industrial transformation.

For years, South Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator Vodacom and rival MTN have led the charge for IoT or M2M solutions that led to the development of the telematics industry in the country with global players such as Mix Telematics. For more read: Mix Telematics’ Subscriber Growth is not Showing Signs of Slowing Down.

To top it all the concept of placing a SIM card into a vehicle to track its performance was born in South Africa.

With the growth of digital services and the hunt for new revenue streams, operators need to maintain their relevance and are seeking compelling services around mobile money, IoT and big data.

Smart home control concept. Modern kitchen interior with white furniture
Smart home control concept. Modern kitchen interior with white furniture (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

After investments of mobile money, IoT has been seen the best way by telcos to enhance their digital services and significantly bolster their digital services revenues.

Estimates are that by 2020, there will be 50 billion things or IoT devices – smart cars, smart parking, smart shoes, smart fridges, smart toasters, smart streetlights, heart monitors, etc. – connected to the Internet. But some of this is not hot air, some companies are already deploying IoT solutions that save lives and empowering farmers to make money across the country.

The South African IoT market, which is mostly dominated by enterprises, is believed to worth about R300 billion, according to a recent report by Vodacom.

But connecting these billions of devices is a challenge for traditional networks as many don’t have the reach to cover vast geographical areas, and most involve high costs.

Developing IoT network infrastructure

Several technology firms are looking at IoT as a lucrative space and are investing time and money to build the sector’s ecosystem and position themselves either as enablers of the market or players providing solutions.

Man uses his smartphone to set up the fridge
Man uses his smartphone to set up the fridge (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

“IoT offers solutions for smart cities, smart businesses, and even many of the challenges we face as a society, for example managing scarce resources like water. By enabling smart tracking, smart perimeter control, smart agriculture, smart buildings, as well as smart city applications like metering and manhole cover monitoring, IoT is already fundamentally changing how we live,” Iain Stevenson, CEO of Comsol, said recently.

“We are proud to introduce the network that is going to empower African utilities, businesses, and individuals to gain the benefits the IoT offers.”

South Africa’s Comsol is deploying IoT network on the back of its R1.5 billion open access layer 2 national network investment and is expected to be available for sensor service termination this month in the major metros. The network is backed by a global alliance and driven by global tech giants Cisco and IBM.

Another player is also developing IoT network in South Africa.

SqwidNet (a wholly owned subsidiary of DFA), is deploying and operating Sigfox’s network nationwide and distribute the IoT connectivity services and solutions to its partner channels. Sigfox is a global provider of a global communication solution powering the IoT.

The roll-out of the Sigfox network in South Africa will initially be in the key metros starting with Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, and Durban, with full national coverage to be completed by 2018.

Internet of Things
Internet of Things (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

While local firm Vula Telematix is rolling out the Machine Network SA, the country’s first public wireless telecommunications network dedicated to M2M communications.

The Machine Network SA is powered by Ingenu’s patented Random Phase Multiple Access technology, which allows Vula Telematix to guarantee that its customers’ devices will work on the network for over 20 years. The Machine Network SA also covers areas that cellular and other network providers are unable or unwilling to, and coverage is consistent, regardless of where devices are located.

This network will benefit mostly our metros and municipalities.

Telco’s invest in Narrowband IoT services

Telco’s are also building their own Narrowband (NB) IoT network as a strategy to counter the new players such as Comsol, Sigfox and Vula Telematics.

Both Vodacom and MTN are deploying their own NB-IoT services to leverage their existing cell phone network infrastructure instead of investing in a costly IoT network.

The NB-IoT services is championed by Vodafone, British mobile giant and owner of Vodacom, and is a better alternative to the likes of LoRa and Sigfox that utilises unlicensed spectrum.

While Comsol, Sigfox and Vula Telematics are busy building their networks, both Vodacom and MTN are sharpening their IoT’s artillery by deploying IoT solutions.

Vodacom NB-IoT platform – launched this week – demonstrate that the telco is deepening its strategic focus on IoT. The platform could be used to nurture an ecosystem of developers, software engineers and start-ups for NB-IoT applications.

The firm also has indicated that it takes IoT seriously as a new source of revenue by developing a dedicated IoT business led by Deon Liebenberg.

The NB-IoT platform provides solutions such as stock visibility solution that enables health clinic dispensaries to report on stock levels on the shelves through a custom-built mobile app. Based on data reported from the clinics, the solution then automates reporting via SMS and e-mail to sub-district and provincial management. For more solutions, visit Vodacom’s NB-IoT platform here.

Vodacom also launched a connected farmer solution, please read:  The Connected Farmer: How Vodacom is Making Farming Cool.

While in 2015 MTN Business unveiled its Pan African IoT platform.

“To ensure a seamless customer experience for our customers, wherever MTN has a presence, the IoT platform has a dedicated network, separate from the consumer network, for operational and business systems support. As a result, the platform is dedicated to managing all MTN’s machine-to-machine functions,” Mteto Nyati, MTN SA CEO, said in 2015.

Through its partnership with Huawei, MTN is using NB-IoT services to target much-needed applications such as smart parking, smart farms, smart homes, smart meters, wildlife tracking. They have already developed joint solutions for the local market.

Smart City (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)
Smart City (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

Making acquisitions to bolster IoT ecosystem

To intensify its role in the IoT ecosystem Vodacom last year acquired 100% of local IoT player X-Link Communications. For more read: Vodacom bets big on Internet of Things, increase its stake to 100% in X-Link.

The IoT market is not short of deals aimed at positioning players to take part in this lucrative space. Recently, Stellenbosch-based antenna engineering firm EMSS Group made inroads into the IoT space by making an investment into IoT player Polymorph, which develops mobile and IoT apps.

“The deal brings together an established engineering company and a youthful start-up and fits perfectly into our vision for the development of new hardware and software product lines. In addition, it fast-tracks our entry into the IoT industry by at least three to four years,” EMSS co-founder and group director Frans Meyer, said recently.

That said, with new players such as Comsol, Sigfox and Vula Telematix investing in new IoT networks in South Africa may mean that both Vodacom and MTN are not in a prime position to tackle the IoT space.

Not to be left behind in the lucrative connected car space, both Vodacom and MTN are playing big. Read more: Vodacom, MTN wants to turn your car into “smartphone on wheels”.

Connected Car
Connected Car (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

They are stepping up their participation in the IoT ecosystem to ensure that they are not being pushed to the margins as simple providers of the infrastructure.

Both Vodacom and MTN are also eyeing to deploy IoT solutions to utilities and municipalities, hoping to capitalise on the growth of smart cities and homes. A telco that will strike a deal with metros such as Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, etc. to deploy smart city services will smile all the way to the bank.

While telcos are all about enhancing their digital services, and finding new revenue streams through deployment of IoT services, let’s hope that predictions by research firm Capegemini comes to fruition. The research firm argues: “The growth of IoT is set to disrupt the ‘established value chains and stable industrial structures’ through new players the way we see it – who are competent enough to innovate and exploit networks and digitization – changing various industries forever.”

This story was first published in Talk IoT for original story click here.

Is Cell C Sustainable?

by Gugu Lourie

Common sense tells me that Cell C cannot survive much longer without being profitable, the more so if it continues to play hide and seek with the market over its finances.

The signs are everywhere that Cell C is struggling – its public relations efforts are not exactly masking the problem.

Last week, the company disclosed that in December it had lodged papers requesting the Gauteng High Court to review call termination regulations. Cell C was also quoted by Business Day as saying that it would “vigorously challenge” Vodacom’s planned R7bn acquisition of Neotel, and would pursue every legal avenue to stop the deal.

Perhaps the problem is that the third-biggest mobile operator is trying too hard to punch above its weight.

There is also an unstated assumption that its customers fully understand what “drop calls” are.

However, one thing I do know is that Cell C’s balance sheet is shielded from public scrutiny because it is not a listed entity, and therefore not compelled to disclose its finances.

That said, this week City Press published a report which places the spotlight firmly on Cell C’s financial health.

Saudi Telecom Company, which indirectly owns a significant stake in Cell C, has reportedly reduced its investment in the mobile operator by a whopping R1.2bn.

The newspaper also added that Reuters reported that Abdulaziz al-Sugair, Saudi Telecom Company’s chairperson, said the firm was “evaluating options” over its international portfolio.

But Cell C’s boss, Jose Dos Santos, insists that his company is not about to go under. He told the newspaper that he was neither concerned about the Saudi Telecom chairperson’s remarks, nor about the impairment.

I am willing to bet that if Cell C fully disclosed its financial statements of its operations over the last 14 years, one would not find a healthy state of affairs.

The comments made by Dos Santos remind me of similar sentiments made by Leo Kirkinis when he was chief executive of African Bank.

Amid reports of serious financial challenges, Kirkinis always urged investors and shareholders to remain confident about African Bank and its prospects for success.

The ensuing disaster that unfolded at African Bank is well documented. Despite Kirkinis’ assurances, the bank let down numerous investors and customers. It also failed the banking sector and the country as a whole.

It feels like déjà vu – Dos Santos still wants to convince everyone who cares to listen that things are hunky-dory at Cell C.

Not even this major decision by the company’s strategic shareholder to write down the asset seems to bother Dos Santos. He also seems oblivious to the veiled threat by Saudi Telecom to take its business elsewhere.

This surely must be a red flag, which points to the possibility that the financial viability of Cell C is not on stable footing.

For now Cell C continues to flex its muscles by taking the industry regulator and disgruntled customers to court. It’s a pity that the public is not privy to the details of the Saudi Telecom write-down.

We can, in the circumstances, speculate that Saudi Telecom wants to disengage from the not-so-profitable Cell C.

It is unlikely that Cell C will reveal its numbers in the coming weeks.

It is predictable that when Cell C publishes its financial figures the market will have access to statistics about subscriber numbers, market share, new products and how the business continues to place the customer at the centre of everything it does.

It would be a mistake, however, to stop questioning the executives of Cell C about the sustainability of the business.

The write-down could be a sign of a restless shareholder.

If Cell C was a listed entitled on the Johannesburg bourse I estimate that its share price would be in the range of 1c to 10c a share – so low that many fund managers would simply ignore it.

But South Africans can’t afford to ignore Cell C. It employs thousands of people and supports numerous suppliers in its value chain.
The challenge to Cell C would be to quickly find a shareholder with big pockets to take it forward – that is, if Saudi Telecom completely disengages.

Evidently, what subscribers want is to know is why they should continue to trust Cell C.

Are Dos Santos’ verbal assurances enough? That is the question.

This SA Boutique Contact Centre Firm Wants to Make a Difference

Eddie Moyce
Eddie Moyce, co-founder EOS

For South Africa, the contact centre industry is dominated by multinational contact centres.

One local contact centre firm is taking a different approach, aiming to make a difference in this country.

Empowered Outsource (EOS) opened its doors in 2018 with an ambitious goal to create a boutique type of contact centre founded in South Africa, run by South Africans, owned by South Africans and driven to make a difference in the life of its employees, the vast majority of whom are the youth of our country, as well as customers.

There are currently thousands of business process outsourced (BPO) contact centre jobs in South Africa.

The contact centre sector contributes about R53 billion annually to Gross Domestic Product and employs more than 220,000 people.

South Africa remains an attractive destination for international business, so EOS believes the opportunity to create employment, specifically youth employment is huge.

The South African firm, founded by a former MTN and Multichoice executive Eddie Moyce and other two partners, says society is in the era of the knowledge worker.

Contact centres are rigid environments where everything gets measured and where the numbers never lie.

“With that as a backdrop, we appreciate that these are not easy jobs and so we need to do whatever it takes to ensure the well-being of our staff,” says Moyce.

Empowered Outsource (EOS) opened its doors in 2018

Its early days for EOS, which employs 85 people and planning to hire more, though it has some very experienced heads, it is fledgling, he said.

That said, EOS is agile, nimble and can move quite quickly from a deployment point of view.

“This, of course, is the benefit of not being a massive bureaucratic organisation,” explains Empowered Outsource (EOS) opened its doors in 2018Moyce.

“EOS also knows that the days of dictating how a customer interacts with a company are long gone. Omnichannel is almost an overused term but if you are not able to provide customers with multiple options such as chat, voice, email, self-service then you will become irrelevant in this industry.

“As Contact Centre business, call volumes have always been a key commercial driver, now we are being forced to think about how Chatbots and AI can provide customers with a unique way of communicating with an organisation,” he says.

“So, it’s really about embracing and adopting technology to remain at the forefront. So, we may not be the biggest disruptor in the industry, but we are certainly here to make a difference in this industry.”

The Durban-based contact centre firm, which works with major Telco’s on the continent as well as an MVNO [mobile virtual network operator], has plans to expand to Gauteng in 2020.

EOS foundation is built on the South African market and the telecommunications industry given the background of its founders.

Asked about expansion plans into other sectors, Moyce says: “The next phase is to expand into financial services, energy sector and retail.

“We are exploring the international market and have had some interest, particularly the UK and USA, with Australia a consideration as well in future. Rome wasn’t built in a day though, so we keep working and forging ahead.”

Moyce adds that the company is planning to grow further and by so doing “we create jobs and help to eradicate one of the biggest issues we currently face as a country, mass unemployment.”

What position EOS very well in the market is that the firm is South African and 100% black-owned.

The co-founder of EOS, adds: “Whilst we are focused on running a successful and profitable business, we are acutely aware of the fact that we are responsible for creating an environment where people can aspire and grow and build a career with a homegrown outfit that services not only South Africa but the Americas, Europe and Australasia as well and does it with aplomb.

“We invest in infrastructure and technology as everybody does but without investment in people, we would be wasting our time truth be told.”

The company is based in Durban, the third most populous city in South Africa—after Johannesburg and Cape Town—and the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

When asked why the company selected Durban as a location for developing a local contact centre, Moyce said KZN is renowned for its excellent sales and service capabilities and has a very good contact centre pool.

“We know that the current youth population is around 3,5 million and so we have assured a pipeline of individuals who can make a difference in this industry in this region.

EOS
EOS

“At EOS we are a home to staff who are educated and well versed on the Customer First mantra. Csat scores, sales figures, Quality scores, Net promoter scores, Delight indexes; all of these are very important and are de rigour in most Contact Centres around the world; however even if we have the best technology and the best processes in place we cannot be successful unless we have the best people in place.

“Well trained, motivated staff are at the fulcrum of our organisation and we are happy that we continue to spend time building a solid foundation.

“We are not the finished product just yet but are on an exciting journey to be not just another BPO Contact Centre in South Africa but to be one that has a reputation for delivery by a professional group of staff who are obsessed with making our customers number 1 in their respective industries.”

Is LTE the Only Alternative?

LTE, 4G, 5G Fast wireless internet connection.

Why satellite is a better “off-grid” option

by Dr Dawie de Wet

Most network architects won’t actually consider satellite as an option. For them, the only alternative is LTE. The reason satellite is not considered an alternative is mainly due to bad past experiences and personal perceptions fuelled by old information or hearsay.

The satellite industry is a very specialised and niche industry and hence not part of the mainstream tech publications and info channels. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that just because you don’t know about the latest satellite technologies that it won’t work and is not an alternative.

“Off-grid” Services

The latest satellite solutions developed on High-Throughput-Satellites like the Intelsat EPIC range provide compelling cases in terms of cost and performance for “off-grid” services.  When your business operation is “off-grid” and not connected to the fibre networks, or you need an on-demand service, then these latest satellite platforms can bridge the gap.

LTE vs Satellite

Since LTE, or other fixed wireless services, are generally considered the only alternative, we will position satellite vs LTE to provide reference and understanding.

This analysis is based on real customer case studies and actual satellite network deployments.

 

Cost.  Surprisingly, satellite is not more expensive than 3G or LTE. Rain currently advertises fixed LTE services at 5c/MB or R50/GB.  The Q-KON Twoobii service provides fixed-fee (uncapped) options at typically R45/GB with the added advantage that it is not capped.

Coverage. For LTE and fixed wireless services, site feasibility work must be completed to ensure that the location is within signal coverage and that the site deployment is feasible. This complicates the project costing and planning for large deployments. The Twoobii satellite service, based on HTS, is literally available everywhere; no signal variation, no need for different dish sizes, with all the locations at the same spec.

Installation costs. The satellite solution still needs a 1,2m dish installation, which can be more complicated than an LTE installation. For this reason, specialist satellite service providers like Q-KON have developed a network of field partners and we can offer a fixed fee (R3300) for installations anywhere in South Africa with an equipment charge of R570/month.

Speed. Currently, the satellite networks provide 10Mbps / 3Mbps data rates, which is lower than LTE services in good coverage. At the same time, 10Mbps is very much a workable option for most business data applications.

Reliability. There is no other technology that can meet the reliability of satellite services. Customer use cases have demonstrated 99,98% uptime over an installed base of 4500 sites and a 4 year period. These are impressive statistics and very difficult for any terrestrial-based technology to meet. For business-critical applications such as point-of-sale, there is simply no other alternative than satellite.

Recent developments in the satellite industry have positioned satellite products like Twoobii as a perfect alternative for “off-grid” business communication. While satellite will never be positioned to be a primary alternative for fibre networks, it is certainly an attractive business case for “off-grid” operations and on-demand use cases.

In May 2019, MyBroadband posted an article that quoted Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko saying that Telkom recently developed a roadmap concerning the proactive migration of customers to newer infrastructure.

“We are hoping that in the next five years we would have exited copper entirely,” Maseko said.

This means that if it is successful with its plan, Telkom’s operational network would primarily be comprised of mobile, LTE, and fibre technology.

At the same press event, Maseko continued to say that the company’s fixed broadband subscriber base – which includes ADSL and FTTH customers – decreased by 13.8% to 847,650 over the period and added that Telkom’s fixed LTE customer base now represents more than its historical peak ADSL user base.  Interesting statistics, and indeed a fine achievement from a technology growth and future-ready strategy perspective.

Can LTE & Fibre replace ADSL?

From various press comments, we understand that Telkom’s aim is not merely to replace its aging ADSL infrastructure. Telkom is striving to implement an upgraded service and enable a wider digital economy. To provide this, a LTE network will typically operate with a range of 600m – 1km in service.

  • Dr Dawie de Wet is CEO of Q-KON

Video: Status of the BMW 530 MLE Restoration in South Africa.

BMW 530 MLE
BMW 530 MLE
  • One of the last of the original motorsport-inspired BMW 5 Series models unearthed in South Africa.
  • Car number 100 of South Africa-only “homologation” special built at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn to be subjected to full restoration.

In December 2018 BMW South Africa announced that it would start restoring the legendary BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE). The restoration process began and included a special appearance by two retired BMW employees who worked at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn in the 1970s and built the legendary cars.

Three months ago marked the start of the restoration process and included a special appearance by two retired BMW employees (Walter Mahlangu and Jacob Matabane) who worked at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn in the 1970s and built the legendary cars.

When BMW South Africa wanted to go racing in the mid-1970s, the company sought out the famous racing driver and Head of BMW Motorsport Jochen Neerpasch. Shortly thereafter, two of the first-generation BMW 5 Series (E12) race cars were prepared to compete in the flagship Modified Production Series in South Africa.

BMW 530 MLE
BMW 530 MLE

The BMW 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE) rolled up to the starting line in the Modified Production Series in 1976. Fifteen wins from 15 consecutive starts followed, and BMW stamped its authority on the racing series with three championship titles in three years. The BMW 530 MLE was the most successful racing BMW 5 Series in history when it was retired in 1985

SARS Pays Out R3.5bn in Refunds to MobiApp Users

Tax Concept
Tax Concept with wooden block on stacked coins. enciktepstudio / Shutterstock.com

With two weeks left before branch filing opens, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has encouraged taxpayers to beat the queues by filing their returns on the SARS MobiApp and eFiling.

The revenue said it has paid out R3.5 billion in refunds during Tax Season for eFilers and users of the SARS MobiApp from 1 July to date.

“During the first week of July, R1.5 billion in refunds were validated and released,” the revenue said.

SARS encouraged taxpayers to file their returns on the SARS MobiApp and eFiling, and assured them that their claims will be attended to and resolved swiftly, “if not flagged for audit”.

“Even after the opening of Branch Filing Season on 1 August 2019, SARS encourages taxpayers to use MobiApp and eFiling for a faster and efficient service,” SARS said.

Tax filing season opened earlier for users of eFiling and the MobiApp, allowing a speedier and convenient filing experience without the need to queue at a branch.

It also offers digital support and services such as Help-You-eFilers that connects the taxpayer to a SARS tax agent for further guidance on eFiling, the call-back functionality on MobiApp and Chat-Bot that provide real-time answers to income tax specific questions.

“Once a tax return is assessed and a refund is due, it will take an average of seven days to be paid out, provided that no debt is due, all obligations have been met, and no verification or audit is required,” SARS explained.

To avoid delays, taxpayers are urged to respond to requests for supporting documents and confirmation of banking details, as these are validations that SARS must adhere to.

“Taxpayers are also requested to ensure that third-party data from their service providers is correct and where such information is incorrect, it be raised with their service provider for re-submission. Taxpayers may refer to the SARS Service Charter for service turnaround times,” the revenue said. – SAnews.gov.za

Get 99% Discount on MTN Ska Wara Bundle Sale Promotion

MTN

MTN prepaid customers could get up to 99% discount on the newly launched MTN Ska Wara Bundle Sale promotion.

Staying connected on South Africa’s best network should not be one of the mid-month expenses MTN customers have to juggle with.

MTN has introduced an exciting promotion called Ska Wara Bundle Sale, which offers dynamic discounts of up to 99% on bundles purchased through USSD channel when they dial *136*2# and select Ska Wara Sale to purchase the bundles.

Customers can qualify for these discounts by buying voice, data and social bundles using the USSD *136*2# or when they dial142#.

The discounts that customers will receive are not fixed, meaning that the discounts of up to 99% await a customer who buys bundles using the USSD. Offers vary from one customer to another as they are based on a unique customer profile on the network.

With Ska Wara Bundle Sale promotion, MTN prepaid customers can stay online and connected with loved ones even during that dreaded last stretch of the month when money is tight.

Customers can choose from Daily, Weekly and Monthly bundles.

The new promotion is an addition to the popular Double Your Bundle promotion which was introduced to the market in February.

MTN Taps Thato Motlanthe as its New Investor Relations Executive

Thato Motlanthe
Thato Motlanthe. Image source: Linkedln

MTN Group has appointed Thato Motlanthe to the position of Executive for Investor Relations, with effect from 1 September 2019.

Motlanthe replaces Nik Kershaw who left MTN Group at the end of May 2019, and will report to Ralph Mupita, MTN Group CFO.

Motlanthe brings to the role extensive experience of  South African and global capital markets, having worked in both the sell-side and buy-side of equity capital markets.

He joins MTN from Absa Asset Management, where he held the role of Portfolio Manager, co-managing the flagship funds within the Equities franchise. Prior to this, he has held senior positions at STANLIB Asset Management, Citigroup Global Markets and UBS Investment Bank over a career spanning 16 years.

“I am excited to join a company with an incredibly strong pan-African and Middle East footprint, great market positions and attractive assets. MTN Group is well-positioned to capture growth from digital and financial inclusion”, said Motlanthe.

MTN logo
MTN logo

Commenting on Thato’s appointment, MTN Group CFO Ralph Mupita said, “We are pleased to have secured someone of Motlanthe’s experience and leadership profile. Motlanthe will play a critical role in the management and building of the investor base for MTN Group, as well as ensuring that the communication of the investment case of our “Digital Operator” strategy remains clear and compelling for stakeholders.”

Naspers Plans to List Prosus on Euronext in September

Naspers
Naspers. Image source: livemint

Naspers has announced plans to list Prosus on Euronext Amsterdam along with a secondary, inward listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in South Africa on Wednesday 11 September 2019.

The Cape Town-based company said it expects to own at least 73% of Prosus and the free float is expected to be up to 27%, created by Naspers through a capitalisation issue of Prosus shares to Naspers shareholders (as described below).

Last month, Naspers  announced it has delayed the listing of its international internet assets on Euronext Amsterdam and secondary, inward listing on JSE.

The company attributed the delay to an administrative error by an external service provider. The error has resulted in certain of the copies of the circular delivered to shareholders being incorrectly labelled, said the firm.

Naspers is planning to spin off assets including a $134 billion stake in Tencent Holdings Ltd. on the Euronext exchange.

“Following the delay to the original timing, I am pleased that the listing of Prosus is on track to be completed in September. It’s a significant step for Naspers and will present a new opportunity for global internet investors to access our unique portfolio of international internet assets, with incremental investment creating a strong platform for our future growth ambitions,” Bob van Dijk, Group CEO, Naspers, said.

“At the same time, the listing is designed to reduce our weighting on the JSE, which will address unhelpful market dynamics for our shareholders. We, therefore, believe the listing will help us maximise shareholder value over time.”

Prosus will be a global consumer internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world, and is likely to become Europe’s largest listed consumer internet company by asset value.

It will comprise all of Naspers’s internet interests outside of South Africa, including its companies and investments in the online classifieds, payments and FinTech, food delivery, etail, travel, education, and social and internet platforms sectors, among others. These assets are some of the world’s leading and fastest-growing internet brands, such as Mail.ru, OLX, Avito, letgo, PayU, Tencent, iFood, Swiggy, DeliveryHero, Udemy, eMAG, and MakeMyTrip.

Prosus will be a strategic investor and operator, aiming to build leading technology companies that improve people’s daily lives in high-growth markets.

The listing of Prosus on Euronext Amsterdam is expected to reduce significant structural barriers for shareholder ownership of Naspers, and represents another major step by management to pursue continued growth, helping to maximise shareholder value over time. This action follows the unbundling of MultiChoice Group in March, which unlocked approximately $3.5 billion for Naspers shareholders.

 

Before Taking on Tech Giants, Shatter a Few Misconceptions

IBM
IBM. JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com

by Bhaskar Chakravorti

As the public and government regulators around the world discuss whether and how to manage the power of technology companies, one idea that keeps coming up is breaking up these large conglomerate corporations into smaller pieces. Public distrust for tech companies has shifted to talk of antitrust action against them. Facebook, for instance, might then have to compete with Instagram for photo-sharing and WhatsApp for messaging – rather than owning both.

The idea has managed to garner support from both Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, and Republican President Donald Trump.

However, advocates and opponents of breaking up big technology firms are falling prey to some serious misconceptions. I study the effects of digital technologies on lives and livelihoods across 85 countries and lead Tufts Fletcher School’s Digital Planet initiative studying technological innovation around the world. In my opinion, there are three myths worth busting before considering taking on big tech.

Myth 1: Comparing Standard Oil and Google

John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil.
Urbanrenewal/Wikimedia Commons

Arguments for and against antitrust action against tech firms rely heavily on the experiences of earlier cases. The massive 19th-century monopoly Standard Oil has, in fact, been referred to as the “Google of its day.” There are also people who are recalling the 1990s antitrust case against Microsoft’s dominant position in the era of personal computers.

Google co-founders Sergey Brin, left, and Larry Page.
Joi Ito/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Those cases from the past may seem similar to today’s situation, but this era is different in one crucial way: the global technology marketplace. Currently, there are two parallel “big tech” clusters. One is in the U.S., dominated by Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. The other is based in China, dominated by Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei. This global market is subject to different political and policy pressures than regulators faced when dealing with Standard Oil and Microsoft.

Both clusters are attempting to add users to accumulate reservoirs of data, which will fuel the next stage of competitiveness in a future run by artificial intelligence. The Chinese government has blocked most of the U.S. companies from entering the Chinese market, protecting its “AI national team.” The U.S. government has done likewise, blacklisting some Chinese outfits for a period while discouraging others.

If the U.S. technology giants are broken up, the result would be a vastly uneven global playing field, pitting fragmented U.S. companies against consolidated state-protected Chinese firms.

Geopolitical factors aren’t limited to the U.S.-China rivalry. The European Union, Russia and India are also heavy users of Silicon Valley technologies, and each is exploring its own options for legislation and regulation too.

U.S. companies’ size and data accumulation capabilities give the country economic and political influence around the globe. Their power would change if they were broken up – and, in my view, that should be a key consideration in regulators’ decisions.

Myth 2: Price is right

There are two main views of antitrust action in these discussions. One focuses on consumer welfare, which has been the prevailing approach federal lawyers have taken since the 1960s. The other view suggests that regulators should look at the underlying structure of the market and potential for powerful players to exploit their positions.

Those two sides seem to agree that price plays a key role. People who argue against breaking up the tech giants point out that Facebook and Google provide services that are free to the consumer, and that Amazon’s marketplace power drives its products’ costs down. On the other side, though, are those who say that having low or no prices is evidence that these companies are artificially lowering consumer costs to draw users into company-controlled systems that are hard to leave.

Both sides are missing the fact that the monetary price is less relevant as measure of what users pay in the technology industry than it is in other types of business. Users pay for digital products with their data, rather than just money. Regulators shouldn’t focus only on the monetary costs to the users. Rather, they should ask whether users are being asked for more data than is strictly necessary, whether information is being collected in intrusive or abusive ways and whether customers are getting good value in exchange for their data.

Myth 3: Trust-busting is all or nothing

There aren’t just two ways for this debate to end, with either a breakup of one or more technology giants or simply leaving things as they are for the market to develop further.

My own idea of the best outcome would take a page from the history of antitrust litigation: The company that is sued is not broken up, and yet the very fact that there was a lawsuit leads to progress. That has happened in the past, in the cases against the Bell System, IBM and Microsoft.

A replica of the first transistor, developed at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories in 1947.
National Archives

In the 1956 federal consent decree against the Bell System, which settled a seven-year legal proceeding against the company, the company wasn’t split up, but Bell was required to license all its patents royalty-free to other firms. This meant that some of the most profound technological innovations in history – including the transistor, the solar cell and the laser – became widely available, yielding computers, solar power and other technologies that are crucial to the modern world. When the Bell System was eventually broken up in 1982, it did not do nearly as much to spread innovation and competition as the agreement that kept the Bells together a quarter-century earlier.

The antitrust action against IBM lasted 13 years and didn’t break up the firm. However, as part of its tactics to avoid appearing to be a monopoly, IBM agreed to separate pricing for its hardware and software products, previously sold as an indivisible bundle. This created an opportunity for entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Paul Allen to create a new software-only company, called Microsoft. The surge of software innovations that have followed can clearly trace their origins to the IBM settlement.

Two decades later, Microsoft was itself the target of an antitrust action. In the resulting settlement, Microsoft agreed to ensure its products were compatible with competitors’ software. That made room in the emerging internet marketplace for web browsers, the predecessors of Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox and Google Chrome.

Even Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s top antitrust official and frequent tech-giant nemesis, has said that “Antitrust prosecutions are part of how technology grows.” But that doesn’t mean they all have to achieve their most extreme ends, of breaking up the companies.

Antitrust rules are complicated enough, and plenty of experts will be called on to give their views on what to do with “big tech.” Technology pervades every aspect of modern lives, giving each person a responsibility to weigh in on this issue without misconceptions clouding their judgments. Technology has become a political issue. In a politically overheated climate, public sentiments may matter even more than the opinions of experts.The Conversation

Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Takealot, Superbalist to Launch a First-of-its-Kind Shopping Event in SA

TakleaLot
TakeAlot. Image source -Career Advice - Careers24

In line with international trends and following on the success of Black Friday, the Takealot Group is once again leading the charge with a first-of-its-kind shopping event in South Africa.

The Ultimate Checkout Sale is the Takealot Group’s beginnings of creating a South African version of an annual shopping event akin to those already established in the USA, China and India.

“The year on year growth of Black Friday is an excellent indication of the appetite for big shopping events in SA. Internationally, annual events such as Amazon’s Prime Day, Alibaba’s Singles Day and Flipkart’s Big Billion Days highlight the demand for tailored shopping experiences in addition to great deals,” Kim Reid, Takealot Group CEO, says.

“What makes The Ultimate Checkout different is that it is built on shopper behaviour and we are hoping to establish this as an annual event.”

The Ultimate Checkout deals are based on analysis of behaviour and trends of over 1.7-million shoppers on Takealot (online general retail) and Superbalist (fashion and homeware). This shopper-centric approach focuses on the highest-rated, most searched for, and most wish-listed products.

The Ultimate Checkout will kick off at 00:01 on 24 July and run as follows:

○        24 July – Day 1: Deals on highest rated products

○        25 July – Day 2: Deals on most searched for products + highest rated products

○        26 July – Day 3: Deals on most wish-listed products + most searched for products + highest rated products

Shoppers who purchase across both Takealot and Superbalist over The Ultimate Checkout period, 24 – 26 July, will stand a chance to win a grand prize of R20 000 in vouchers from Takealot (R10 000) and Superbalist (R10 000).

AI: : Where’s it Going and Where it’s not

AI
Artificial intelligence. Andrey Suslov / Shutterstock.Com
The Singularity (with a capital S) is a doomsday vision that has cast artificial intelligence (AI) and its robot sister-in-crime as evil villains bent on the irreversible and immeasurable disaster to the human condition.
Whether we need to worry about the big S or not really isn’t the issue, rather the primary concern today should focus on how do we capitalize on the impact of AI in the now and the foreseeable future.
Yes, there are challenges with the deployment of AI in various applications and industries, but there are also amazing opportunities as well. Following are two areas where AI shows a lot of promise.

 

AI and wearables

Today, the pervasiveness of wearables, powered by AI, continues to flourish as tools to enhance our quality of life. Whether it’s a smartphone that pops up directions as you start on your daily drive or an exercise ring that prompts you to stand at least once an hour, these devices are just that—pervasive, i.e. a persistent and powerful entity in our lives.

Wearables, devices that are seamlessly integrated into clothing, worn on the body, or even implanted in the body, are continuously being utilized for enhancing our quality of life and our productivity.

In the home environment, they can help us keep track of healthy habits, remind us about our medication doses or daily tasks, and even keep us honest about those pesky birthdays.

In the work environment, wearables can enhance productivity by using data to nudge workers toward good behavior in order to increase their happiness or monitoring their keystrokesto enhance computer security. In fact, a number of companies are even using wearables to track fatigue on the job.

Wearables though aren’t just for adults – they also have the potential to help parents check on the safety of their children, especially during sleep time. There are a number of companies already exploring the use of these wearable applications for children. Prior research, including ours, have even designed wearables for pre-term and at-risk infants in order to track their kicking movement patterns to enable early detection of a disability.

Although the use of AI in the domain of wearables continues to gain momentum, one challenge that the industry is still struggling with is security. Wearables, a form of IOT (Internet of Things), which are physical devices connected to the Internet, are known to have security vulnerabilities. Wearables collect a massive amount of data in order to enable the AI algorithms to personalize the interaction with users. This same information can also enable tracking and access to the user’s connected profile – whether a banking account, a home security system, or their physical location. And most wearable applications, although optimized for personalization, are not optimized for privacy or safety.

Emotional AI

Another exciting AI technology is the emergence of AI systems that can not only recognize human emotions, but also emote in an equivalent, socially appropriate, manner.  Emotional AI, also known as affective computing, attempts to sense, understand, and react to human emotions.

Whether it’s a customer service chatbot, a virtual therapist, or a math tutor, advancements in facial analysis, language understanding, voice recognition, and sentiment analysis have provided AI the ability to decode human emotions at a level that is uncanny. Based on analyzing large amounts of data, AI is very good at recognizing whether slight voice inflections are concealing signs of stress or whether facial micro expressions are masking a customer’s exasperation.

By carefully deciphering the human’s emotional state, AI can enhance the interaction in order to keep users engaged in the task at hand. Of course, given that these AI systems are learning from human data, the challenge is to develop appropriate techniques to mitigate algorithmic biases that might be hidden in the system.

There are many other opportunities for using AI in our daily activities. The two aforementioned technologies represent only a small segment of the possibilities. As AI continues to operate in our human-centered world, adapting to our nuances, it can positively enhance our lives, as long as we also address its challenges, including resolving issues of privacy, security, and bias, to name a few.

Ayanna Howard, Ph.D. is the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Professor and Chair of the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is also the Chief Technology Officer of Zyrobotics. Dr. Howard’s career focus is on intelligent technologies that must adapt to and function within a human-centered world. Her work encompasses advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), assistive technologies, and robotics. Dr. Howard recently spoke at the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit on ethics in AI.

  • This article was originally published on Tech Talks. Read the original article here.