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Telkom promises 1m fibre lines

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Telkom has announced that it will double its fibre rollout to 70 000 homes by December 2015, with that capacity reaching 150 000 houses by March next year, and finally being able to provide fibre access to one million homes by 2018.

Telkom has announced that 38 000 homes were given access to fibre by the end of August 2015 and 1 317 LTE sites added to the network. The company will double the fibre rollout to 70 000 homes by December 2015 and will have capacity to connect 150 000 homes by March 2016 and 500 000 by December 2016. By 2018, Telkom says, it will have provided access for one million homes to connect to fibre.

In his address to delegates attending the Southern African Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) in Hermanus, Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said Telkom is committed to democratising broadband access. “We have set ourselves the objective of contributing to transforming the South African economy. South Africa is a developing democracy. We want to accelerate this development,” said Maseko.

While Telkom’s fibre rollout for large metropolitan areas will continue, the company is working with government to provide broadband to under-serviced areas.

At the same time, there must be a recognition that the digital divide is alive and well in South Africa. “We must recognise that the issue of access lies at the heart of the divide. You either have access or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. To cross the digital divide, you must provide universal access,” said Maseko.

Telkom has already begun reducing wholesale prices in order to bring down the cost to communicate and has launched a 1Mbit DSL service to reduce the barriers to broadband access.

Earlier this year, Telkom alluded to the potential for it to become an open-access operator. The company today confirmed that it will open copper access at 200 exchanges on a trial basis, thus effectively paving the way for a more open access approach, depending on the outcome of the trial. Telkom is committed to the establishment of an open-access regime for the entire industry to realise South Africa’s objectives.

Maseko called on mobile operators to join Telkom to bridge the digital divide. “If we are to overcome the access deficit, and in light of the mobile revolution and the benefits this has engendered, South Africa needs to see wholesale access to the mobile local loop and active sharing of the radio access network. This is an imperative and an important precursor for democratising broadband,” said Maseko.

South Africa requires decisive, unambiguous action to ensure its competitiveness, he said. It also needs fair access to spectrum, in particular Sub-1 Ghz, for rural coverage and good indoor coverage in urban areas. Maseko noted that this is particularly true for Telkom, the only mobile operator without Sub-1 Ghz spectrum. Maseko called on South Africa’s telecoms regulator to consider its spectrum strategy to allow for fairer distribution of spectrum.

In order to make broadband access meaningful, South Africa should also reconsider import duties which limit broader access to affordable smart devices costing less than R1 000.

“As a nation we’ve done some pretty remarkable things. We can do so again. I believe we are at an inflection point. History will judge us one day on how we –  government, operators, academia, the regulators and original equipment manufacturers – have used our collective resources to bring about sustainable change and economic development by bringing broadband to our people,” concluded Maseko.

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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