In 2003 there was a massive technology shift from dial-up to ADSL. According to a SME Survey, another shift is on the horizon, but this time from ADSL to fibre.
The massive technology shift from dial-up to ADSL as the most common form of connectivity among small and medium enterprises is about to be repeated. Except that, this time, the shift will be from ADSL to fibre.
This is one of the major early indications of SME Survey 2018, in partnership with Intuit QuickBooks, which has achieved its target of interviewing 1 400 business decision-makers.
SME Survey is the original and largest representative survey since 2003 to measure the forces shaping SME competitiveness in South Africa. One of the great success stories is the manner in which it has tracked the rise and fall of comparative types of Internet connectivity.
According to Arthur Goldstuck, principal researcher for SME Survey and MD of World Wide Worx, the Survey has been in a position to track connectivity trends from the arrival of ADSL in this market in 2003, the same year the Survey began. As a result, it was ideally placed to track the transition from dial-up to ADSL that occurred among SMEs from 2003 to 2009.
“Because we were able to track adoption rates from the outset, we could demonstrate perfectly the rise of one technology and the decline of the other. We are now at the stage where we are beginning to witness the decline of ADSL, as it is replaced by fibre to the home or office. The interim SME Survey 2018 results therefore present a fascinating story of history repeating itself with regards to technology replacement,” he says.
“ADSL usage peaked at around 70% in 2009 and remained at this high until 2015, when fibre arrived. The latest figures from the Survey indicate that ADSL usage has now dropped to 56% among SMEs, while fibre has increased to 23% – this is exciting, because it means that the adoption of fibre is taking place even more rapidly than the adoption of ADSL did 15 years ago.”
Such rapid adoption is being brought about, says Goldstuck, by the rapid rise in availability of fibre across urban areas, coupled with the falling price of the technology. In conjunction with this, the increasing uptake and use of bandwidth-intensive technologies by SMEs has resulted in a perfect storm that is driving this desire for technology replacement.
“The switch from ADSL to fibre is being driven by much the same reasoning as the earlier move from dial-up to ADSL. In effect, when SMEs see a clear value proposition, one which can translate into the phrase ‘no-brainer’, they are more than willing to embrace it rapidly. On the other hand, when it has to be explained or demystified – as seems to have occurred with the concept of the cloud – they tend to stay clear of it for far longer. However, with fibre the value proposition is so obvious that SMEs are clear about how it will improve their business, and so adoption is taking off.”
“This is a huge shift and is extremely exciting for SMEs and accountants in South Africa,” says Wendy Walker, Head of Marketing at Intuit QuickBooks. “We have witnessed how the use of technology such as the cloud has reshaped and reinvigorated businesses across the globe and we have no doubt will we will see the same impact here. Whether it’s evolutionary or a new disruptive innovation, SMEs are always looking for technology that will help deliver better services and products, and of course, greater returns for their businesses. That’s what we are here to provide.”
Goldstuck goes on to explain, that with fibre, the cost to speed relationship is vastly improved, while the quality of the connection is also higher, since fibre doesn’t have the same level of contention – the number of people using the same connection – as ADSL. This means, generally speaking, the speed you buy is the speed you get.
“Another aspect that differentiates fibre fundamentally from ADSL is that any service provider can supply connectivity and services over fibre. This is very different to the South African ADSL market, where there is essentially still only one provider for the technology. This diversity has clearly helped open the market, thanks to the increased competition.”
A key benefit SMEs obtain from switching to fibre, says Goldstuck, is that it enables SMEs to operate online without any of the performance and quality constraints they may have faced before. This means that their communications are significantly improved, enabling them to utilise solutions like video-conferencing and social media platforms to further their business. It also gives them more confidence in using the Internet for transactional purposes, thanks to the quality and speed of the connectivity.
“This quality and speed, coupled with much higher bandwidth caps, is opening these small businesses up to greater levels of collaboration and a range of new business possibilities,” he says. “Ultimately, fibre expands the vision of small business decision makers, while levelling the playing fields with large organisations in terms of access and collaboration. Furthermore, once SMEs get to grips with the many possibilities offered by fibre, they will be more confident in aiming for a higher digital level and will more fully embrace cloud platforms and solutions. This, in turn, means they will be well placed to compete more directly with big enterprises.”
When will we stop calling them phones?
If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.
Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?
It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.
Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.
It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.
That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.
Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti, Admyt and Kaching.
Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.
Who has time for phone calls?
The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.
The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,
This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.
That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.
Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.
Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.
Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.
More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time.
I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.
There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.
MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps
MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.
The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.
“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.
Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”
“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”
“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.