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IDC predicts 2017 in SA tech roll-out

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The next wave of ICT development in South Africa will see organisations across the country doing more with less while consolidating and outsourcing legacy IT, according to the latest forecasts from IDC.

Hosting its ‘IDC Predictions 2017’ event in Johannesburg recently, the global ICT research and consulting services firm also predicted that innovation will continue to disrupt the traditional ICT mix and that there will be a much stronger focus on ensuring that technology enables business outcomes.

“This year has undoubtedly been a difficult year for economies around the world,” says Mark Walker, IDC’s associate vice president for Sub-Saharan Africa. “The South African economy has not emerged unscathed. Marginal economic growth and political instability have made the business environment very difficult to navigate, and organisations are looking at technology to drive down their costs while improving the way they operate. Business confidence has also taken a knock because of the economic and political instability.”

“We have seen a very strong focus on datacenter infrastructure and operations during the past year,” continues Walker. “Information security and enterprise software have also been among the top three priorities for CIOs during the same period. Interestingly, cloud computing was only at number seven of the top priorities, which is unexpected considering the global rush to the cloud as a driver of digital transformation and business agility.”

Jon Tullett, research manager for IT services at IDC South Africa, says South Africa has lagged in cloud adoption due to the lack of local infrastructure, data protection concerns, and conservative investment strategies. “IDC believes 2017 will see at least one major global cloud provider establishing local datacenter infrastructure to service the region,” says Tullet. “This will address key concerns and spur competition and adoption while putting pressure on local providers. New public cloud spend will overtake on-premise in areas such as collaborative applications, application development software and platforms, and customer relationship management (CRM).”

Tullett recommends that organisations continue to invest in a private cloud but develop the capabilities to transition workloads into public cloud as circumstances change: “Organisations should reassess their application capabilities with a view to cloud capabilities and invest in cloud skills around critical workloads, as well as integration and management. They should also reevaluate contracts and relationships with software providers to ensure that they meet their business requirements.”

IDC pointed out that 2016 was also a tough year for information security, with the prevalence of massive data leaks, ransomware, and IoT internet-of-things (IoT) malware compounded by a shortage of IT security skills. “We believe 2017 will be worse in every aspect of information security,” says Tullett. “We expect continued exposure for South African businesses to major cybercrime syndicates, both directly and indirectly. IDC also believes 2017 will see at least one high-profile public breach in South Africa, which is likely to be a data leak within the public sector, although we cannot rule out a malware or ransomware attack in retail or healthcare. However, IDC expects that South Africa will contribute several new technologies aimed thwarting attacks, particularly in relation to IoT applications.”

George Kalebaila, senior research manager for telecommunications at IDC South Africa, says until now most of the IoT applications have been cellular based and mainly under the domain of traditional mobile operators. “In 2017, we will start seeing several smaller non-mobile operators deploy low-power WAN (LPWAN) IoT networks to provide low-cost IoT applications,” he says. “IDC expects that most of these implementations will be LoRA based rather than SigFox. IoT will remain a preserve of mobile operators. Post-2017, we expect to see an acceleration of IoT deployments in other African countries using similar business models. LPWAN IoT network implementations will slowly start pushing IoT into the limelight away from traditional M2M applications and lower the barrier to entry in the market, reduce the cost of connectivity, and contribute to the rapid growth of connected devices. We also foresee the developer community taking more interest in developing localised IoT solutions. Once these solutions find their way into the market, this will also drive IoT adoption.”

Kalebaila says mobility is becoming one of the key drivers of digital transformation as customer engagements and transactions move to digital platforms: “Choose your own device (CYOD) has become the de facto device policy for most enterprises to reduce the cost of mobilising the workforce. Financial services will continue to lead the adoption of mobility solutions mainly due to the inherent benefits and cost savings from the reduction in branch footprint and improving customer experience. However, securing data and data recovery have become more important than securing devices as data becomes the new capital in the digital economy.”

IDC expects the number of mobile enterprise applications to almost double as the shift from devices to mobile apps accelerates. “In 2017, near field communication (NFC) will start pushing mobile payments to the fore, but will still remain on the peripheral and will be niche,” says Kalebaila. “5G curiosity and hype from mobile operators and vendors will lead to 5G becoming part of enterprise executive discussions.”

Kalebaila also says organisations should plan for mobile apps as a natural part of all workflows in the organisation: “The focus should move to mobile app development platforms as a critical tool and security must be integrated across the mobile app development lifecycle. Organisations should also develop an intermediate understanding of 5G elements and what they mean in a commercial setting.”

Tullett believes that South African companies will increase their investment in analytics and big data in 2017. While the primary investment will remain limited to large enterprises, he says South African companies are building foundation technologies for cognitive computing, whether it is part of the long-term strategy or not: “Behavioral analysis and prediction will become mainstream in 2017, directly driving product development in banking, financial services, and insurance in particular. In 2017, analytics will be the primary resource responsible for thwarting major criminal incidents.”

He says that when machine learning does arrive in the country, it will do so rapidly, with mature, proven technologies ready to deploy by then and ready to take advantage of aligning projects towards that future. Tullett’s advice to organisations in South Africa is to continue to invest in analytics and data processing capabilities: “Measure everything, bearing in mind this will require investment in data handling infrastructure and development resources. Ensure your data is robust and accessible to your development, customer experience, business intelligence and data science teams. Finally, workshop strategic projects around current and future analytic capabilities.”

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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.

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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.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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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.

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