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AWS switches on Direct Connect in South Africa

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched the AWS Direct Connect in South Africa, making it the first time that the Amazon network has come to Africa, giving customers local access to redundant and diverse network infrastructure.

Having AWS Direct Connect in the country allows customers based in South Africa to have dedicated, reliable, and high bandwidth connectivity to the Amazon Global Network, bypassing the public internet. Customers can connect to all AWS infrastructure Regions around the world (except China) from locations in Johannesburg and Cape Town and their traffic will remain in the Amazon backbone network throughout the entire journey.

For many years AWS has been working with organisations of all sizes in South Africa, from the newest startups, like Entersekt, NicheStreem, and Paygate through to some of the most well-known, household names, such as Pick ‘n Pay and TravelStart to help them move workloads to the cloud. One of the main requests AWS has received from South African customers has been to help reduce costs and improve network performance from on-premises environments to AWS infrastructure Regions located in Europe, the US, and around the world.

The new AWS Direct Connect location in Johannesburg is located at the Teraco JB1 facility and in Cape Town at the Teraco CT1 facility. If customers have equipment within these facilities they can use Direct Connect to optimize their connection to AWS. If their equipment is located somewhere else, they can work with one of AWS’ APN Partners supporting Direct Connect or their carrier to establish a connection from their location to the Teraco AWS Direct Connection location nearest to them, and from there on to AWS.

This is good news for customers in South Africa for several reasons:

Reduced Bandwidth Costs

For customers in South Africa that have bandwidth-heavy workloads that they wish to run in AWS, AWS Direct Connect reduces their network costs, in that, by transferring data to and from AWS directly, they can reduce their bandwidth commitment to their Internet service provider.

Consistent Network Performance

Network latency over the Internet can vary given that the Internet is constantly changing how data gets from point A to B. When looking at the distance from South Africa to Europe, the US, or Asia, this can get magnified. With AWS Direct Connect, customers choose the data that utilizes the dedicated connection and how that data is routed, which can provide a more consistent network experience over Internet-based connections.

Elastic

AWS Direct Connect provides 1Gbps and 10Gbps connections, and customers can easily provision multiple connections if they need more capacity. Customers can avail lower bandwidth connections of 50Mbps to 500Mbps through our APN Partners supporting AWS Direct Connect. Customers can also use AWS Direct Connect instead of establishing a VPN connection over the Internet, avoiding the need to utilize VPN hardware that frequently can’t support data transfer rates above 4 Gbps.

With global access enabled, customers using AWS Direct Connect can reach their AWS resources in any region worldwide (except China). With global public VIFs (Virtual Interfaces), customers get all global Amazon public routes allowing global access to publicly routable services like Amazon S3, Amazon EC2 etc. For private resources such as Amazon VPC, customers can use Direct Connect Gateway with private VIFs to reach multiple VPCs in multiple AWS regions from a single AWS Direct Connect location.

Customers can get started by logging into the AWS Management Console and ordering their AWS Direct Connect port today! Both Teraco CT1 and JB1 can be found in the EU West (Ireland) region. More details about AWS Direct Connect can be found on the website here:

https://aws.amazon.com/directconnect/

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AI, IoT, and language of bees can save the world

A groundbreaking project is combining artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to learn the language of bees, and save the planet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It is early afternoon and hundreds of bees are returning to a hive somewhere near Reading in England. They are no different to millions of bees anywhere else in the world, bringing the nectar of flowers back to their queen.

But the hive to which they bring their tribute is no ordinary apiary.

Look closer, and one spots a network of wires leading into the structure. They connect up to a cluster of sensors, and run into a box beneath the hive carrying the logo of a company called Arnia: a name synonymous with hive monitoring systems for the past decade. The Arnia sensors monitor colony acoustics, brood temperature, humidity, hive weight, bee counts and weather conditions around the apiary.

On the back of the hive, a second box is emblazoned with the logo of BuzzBox. It is a solar-powered, Wi-Fi device that transmits audio, temperature, and humidity signals, includes a theft alarm, and acts as a mini weather station.

In combination, the cluster of instruments provides an instant picture of the health of the bee hive. But that is only the beginning.

What we are looking at is a beehive connected to the Internet of Things: connected devices and sensors that collect data from the environment and send it into the cloud, where it can be analysed and used to monitor that environment or help improve biodiversity, which in turn improves crop and food production.

The hives are integrated into the World Bee Project, a global honey bee monitoring initiative. Its mission is to “inform and implement actions to improve pollinator habitats, create more sustainable ecosystems, and improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods by establishing a globally-coordinated monitoring programme for honeybees and eventually for key pollinator groups”.

The World Bee Project is working with database software leader Oracle to transmit massive volume of data collected from its hives into the Oracle Cloud. Here it is combined with numerous other data sources, from weather patterns to pollen counts across the ecosystem in which the bees collect the nectar they turn into honey. Then, artificial intelligence software – with the assistance of human analysts – is used to interpret the behaviour of the hive, and patterns of flight, and from there assess the ecosystem.

Click here to read more about how the Internet of Things is used to interpret the language of bees.

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Download speeds ramp up in SA

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All four South African mobile network operators have improved their average download speed experience by at least 1 Mbps in the past six months.

This is one of the main findings in the latest South Africa Mobile Network Experience report by Opensignal, the mobile analytics company. It has analysed the mobile experience in the country, updating a study last conducted in February 2019. While a quick look at its South Africa awards table suggests not much has changed since the last report, it’s far from stagnating. 

Opensignal reports the following improvements across its measurements:

  • MTN remains the leader in our 4G Availability measurements, with a score of 83.6%. But the other three operators are all now within 2 percentage points of the 80% milestone — with Telkom’s users seeing the biggest increase of over 8 points.
  • All four operators improved their Download Speed Experience scores by at least 1 Mbps. But growth in our Upload Speed Experience scores has stagnated, with only winner Vodacom seeing an incremental increase.
  • MTN and Vodacom remain tied for our Video Experience award, and both have increased their scores in the past six months, putting them on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings. Cell C also increased its score to tip over into a Good ranking (55-65).
  • MTN scored over 90% in 4G Availability in two of South Africa’s biggest cities and was just shy of this milestone in the others. Meanwhile, MTN and Vodacom have now passed the 20 Mbps mark in Download Speed Experience in three cities each.

A quick look at the awards table would suggest not much has changed in South Africa since the last report in February. MTN won the 4G Availability award again, Vodacom kept hold of the medals for Upload Speed and Latency Experience, while the two operators tied for Download Speed and Video Experience just as they did six months ago.

But far from stagnating, we’re seeing improvements across most of the measurements. All four of South Africa’s national operators — Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom — are now closing in on 80% 4G Availability nationally, while at the urban level, MTN has passed the 90% mark in two cities. And in Download Speed Experience, our users on all four operators’ networks saw their scores increase at least 8%.

In this report, Open Signal has analyzed the scores for all four national operators across all their metrics over the 90 days from the start of May 2019, including South Africa’s five biggest cities — Cape Town, Durban, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, and Tshwane.

MTN has been top of Open Signal’s South African 4G Availability leaderboard for a couple of years now, and the operator remains dominant with a winning score over 4 percentage points ahead of its rivals. But it was users on Telkom’s network who saw the most impressive boost in 4G Availability, as its score jumped by well over 8 percentage points.

This leap has put Telkom into a three-way draw for second place with Cell C and Vodacom, who both saw their scores increase by at least 3 percentage points.

While MTN is the only operator to have passed 80% in national 4G Availability, the other three players are all less than 2 percentage points away from this milestone. Based on the current rate of improvement, Open Signal fully expects to see all four operators pass the 80% mark in its next report — which will provide testament to the rapid maturing of the South African mobile market.

MTN and Vodacom remain neck-and-neck in the Video Experience analysis, with both operators scoring 65 (out of 100). And the two rivals both saw their scores rise by around 3 points since our last report, meaning the two continue to share our Video Experience award. Cell C and Telkom remain in third and fourth place, but both saw larger increases — of 5 and 4 points respectively — to narrow the gap on the leaders.

The increase in MTN and Vodacom’s Video Experience scores means the two operators are on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings in this metric — with the users on their networks enjoying fast loading video times and almost non-existent stalling, even at higher resolutions. By comparison, Cell C’s score earned it a Good rating (55-65), while Telkom remains in Fair (40-55) territory — meaning users watching video on Telkom’s network, in particular, will likely struggle with longer load times and frequent stuttering, even at lower resolutions.

In terms of 4G-only Video Experience, Cell C’s score has increased enough to tip it over into a Very Good rating — now featuring three operators achieving 4G network scores with a Very Good ranking. And as 4G Availability continues to increase, the overall Video Experience scores will continue to climb, making mobile video viewing more of a viable proposition across all networks. And in a country where fixed-line broadband connections are relatively rare and the large majority of South Africans only connect to the internet via cellular, this improvement has the potential to transform people’s lives.

Read more from Open Signal’s report here.

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