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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.

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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