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Now it’s fibre-to-everywhere!

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Thanks to the competition from start-ups and small operators, many of the larger telecoms players have had to up their fibre game in order to satisfy their customer’s broadband needs, writes SUVEER RAMDHANI, Chief Development Officer at SEACOM.

South Africa’s telecoms industry is on the cusp of its next wave of growth, thanks to the growing uptake of bandwidth intensive applications like Cloud services and Internet TV streaming from businesses and consumers.

Fast-changing user behaviour is putting pressure on telecom operators to evolve their business models. It’s thanks to competition from innovative start-ups and small operators that the larger players have had to step up their game in fibre.

We’ve been talking about the cloud and Internet TV for years but didn’t have the infrastructure to support the concepts. Now it’s finally coming to fruition because new competitors have forced content, application and infrastructure providers to speed up the deployment of new offerings.

It was Conduct’s (now part of Dark Fibre Africa) entry into the Fibre to the Business (FTTB) market and Vumatel’s entry into the suburban Fibre to the Home (FTTH) market that galvanised South Africa’s incumbent operators into action. Today, there’s a flurry of activity in the fibre market and the way in which businesses and consumers use the Internet has changed completely.

As higher bandwidth speeds on copper and wireless became more affordable, businesses and consumers began dabbling with cloud apps and video streaming. Yet, the user experience wasn’t ideal and many users become willing as a result to pay a premium for faster, more reliable connectivity.

Among businesses, fibre is all about offsite backup, offsite data storage and other Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings that unleash the true power of the cloud. In the home, fibre is all about multiple people watching Internet TV streams on different screens. These applications have created a business case for widespread fibre rollouts across the country.

This, combined with the fact that technological innovations have driven the cost of fibre deployments down, means that operators are more willing to take a moderate risk by providing end-users with the experience they desire. And the risk has paid off.

Consumers are now clamouring for new services and the fibre that delivers the best experience. It seems that every time you turn around, yet another operator has emerged to serve this booming market. With the competition that is emerging, operators will need to shift their focus to a lean, customer-oriented business operating model to remain relevant in this market. The good news is that fibre will become more and more profitable for them as scale grows.

A fortunate side effect is that the more fibre is put into the ground, the cheaper it becomes to deploy fibre infrastructure to neighbouring communities. It may be hard to imagine now, but in the near future you can expect fibre deployments to surge in areas outside the main metros of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. The capital costs of deployment are falling and the barriers to entry have been removed. It will be economically viable to deploy fibre even in areas where the average telecom revenue per user is considered low in today’s terms.

In a few years, everyone will be able to use their Internet connection indulgently – video calls, media streaming, and real-time backups will become second nature not just for businesses but for residential users as well.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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