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Cell C places R8bn LTE bet

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Cell C has announced that it will be spending R8-billion over the next three yeas to build its LTE network in key areas around South Africa.

Cell C will invest R8 billion over the next three years to build its LTE network that will see high-speed broadband technology brought to its customers in targeted areas across the country.

“Our LTE strategy will be focused and strategic, targeting metropolitan areas where people work and live. The primary commuting areas that fall outside the major metros will remain covered by HSPA+,” says Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos.

The company has signed supply agreements with both Huawei and ZTE, which are Cell C’s primary partners in the rollout of LTE and entails the rollout of more than 4000 LTE sites. “We are pleased to partner with both these businesses. Huawei and ZTE have both proved exceptional vendors in delivering quality service and technology to Cell C over the years,” says Dos Santos.

The first targeted areas for LTE rollout will be in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. “Gated communities and high-density residential areas where there is a great demand for high speed data will be one of our priorities.”

In a phased approach, Cell C will upgrade sites starting in the central Gauteng areas from Rosebank and Sandton across the northern Johannesburg areas. This will be followed by the northern Gauteng areas, including Pretoria and Centurion and finally the eastern and western parts of Gauteng to include Benoni, Boksburg, Johannesburg proper, Soweto, Lenasia and Roodepoort.

“We have a comprehensive plan and strategic reasoning behind the specific tower rollout route we have chosen and are working tirelessly to ensure that every LTE site is linked to our fibre backbone to provide the highest level of quality and speed to our customers,” says Dos Santos.

In KwaZulu-Natal, Cell C will start the rollout in areas from Hillcrest through to the Dolphin Coast, as well as, the Umhlanga area. Areas surrounding Durban, including Chatsworth and Durban South, will follow. Pietermaritzburg, Umlazi and surrounding areas will be next on the roadmap.

Rollout in the Western Cape will begin from SeaPoint to Durbanville, the Airport and Stellenbosch. Simon’s Town through Constantia to Brakenfell and Somerset West will be included in the second wave of the Western Cape rollout. While Mitchells Plain and Paarl are planned to follow.

“These are just some of the areas that will be covered by LTE over the next three years.  Limpopo, Mpumalanga and other provinces are planned, and details of these rollouts will be unveiled at a later stage,” says Dos Santos.

Cell C already has LTE sites on air in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape with a select group of customers trialling the service.  Full coverage maps will be available in due course and will be updated closer to commercial launch.

The LTE rollout will complement Cell C’s continued investment into its existing network and the rollout of additional towers to improve HSPA+ performance and increase coverage and capacity across the country.

An additional 1353 3G sites are planned across the country over the next few years to ensure that Cell C stays above the curve. Additional projects are also underway in various provinces to enhance network quality and stability following the successes the company experienced in the Gauteng improvement projects.

“The significant investment in our network further confirms our shareholders’ commitment to Cell C and confidence in the company’s continued strong performance,” says Dos Santos.

“We have worked hard to ensure the best possible quality and service experience for our customers and we will continue to put quality at the top of the agenda. We are excited to now be able to add LTE to our roadmap.”

Cell C plans to launch a commercial offering in the latter part of 2015 and will reveal its LTE suite of products and services in due course.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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