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State of Fibre in SA

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By Jarryd Chatz, CEO at BitCo.

There’s no question that South Africa has lagged behind in the global connectivity sphere, especially in the arena of high-speed Fibre Internet. Right now, though, business and home consumers are enjoying a healthy period of competition, expansion and improvement for Fibre offerings. Although progress may not be as fast as initially thought, every day more and more South Africans are gaining access to broadband Fibre, allowing them to take advantage of cloud-based business solutions, streaming entertainment services and the literal world of opportunities that this kind of reliable ultra-high-speed connectivity facilitates.

South Africa playing catch-up

Already in the year 2000, Western Europe and North America were enjoying the benefits of well-developed Fibre infrastructure. Meanwhile, here in South Africa we were struggling with industry monopolies along with municipal permissions for digging and trenching so that Fibre-optic cable could be laid. With these barriers lasting all the way through to 2007, South Africa found itself on the backfoot in terms of broadband internet.

The result? In 2015, South African broadband costs were up to ten times higher than in the United Kingdomthen ranked 19th in the world for connectivity – and local speeds were five times slower. Fast-forward a handful of years though, and South Africa is gradually climbing the global rankings for broadband quality. Out of 200 countries analysed worldwide in the annual Cable.co.uk study, South Africa sat in 76th place as of 2018 (a climb of four places) and had a mean broadband download speed of 6.38Mbps (in 2017 it was 4.36Mbps), against a global average of 9.10Mbps.

We’re still behind Madagascar (24.87Mbps) and Kenya (10.11Mbps) for speed test results in Africa, but the situation is continually improving, and right now South Africa is covering ground, literally. As of March 2018, 280 000 South African homes – typically in major metropolitan areas – had Fibre, up from 191 000 the year before, and there was year-on-year growth of 112% in terms of fibre accessibility (439 000 households reached in 2017 vs. 933 000 in 2018).

The future of Fibre coverage in South Africa

With the major metros and surrounding suburbs largely saturated in terms of broadband accessibility, 2019 promises to be a year that rollout extends to other smaller urban areas, and then further into rural South Africa.

This expansion aligns with Government plans to have Fibre-optic cables throughout South Africa, as part of the “South Africa Connect” broadband policy gazetted in 2013. The ultimate objective of this plan is to have 100% penetration of affordable, high-quality broadband (at a minimum speed of 10Mbps) across the country by 2030. Truthfully, the reaching of such idealistic targets is likely to be delayed because it’s such a slow and expensive exercise. To replace all conventional copper telephone lines – which underpin popular ADSL internet access – with superior Fibre-optic cables means a rough estimated cost of R60 billion.

An unfolding present of increasing speed and falling prices

Still, even with a slower spread of Fibre coverage, South Africa consumers are expected to benefit across the board. The greater the demand for Fibre, the higher the speed will become and there are more options now than there ever have been – although most Fibre providers do not yet offer speeds higher than 50-200Mbps.

At the same time, the current price of Fibre in South Africa is likely the most expensive it will ever be, and consumers can expect it to drop in the near future. Due to high outlay and maintenance costs associated with light-transmitting fibre-optic cables, the first locations to receive Fibre coverage locally were more affluent, higher-LSM areas, where people could afford it, and infrastructure companies could more easily make back their investment. As Fibre is rolled out further in future, expanding on existing networks, and as more homes and businesses install it, it will become cheaper so that eventually even poorer rural communities will have access.

All this said, companies looking at business fibre today, as well as private individuals investigating FTTH (Fibre to the Home), should always consider the impact that factors such as line speed, capping, contention, network ownership and the nature of technical support have on costs. Service providers offering cheaper subscriptions plans may, for instance, base their pricing on the fact that their upload and download speeds are asynchronous, or the last mile of connectivity to your office or home actually isn’t fibre – in which case, your connection speed may be slower than you thought it would be.

Fibre today in South Africa is better than ever, and continually improving. For consumers to capitalise on its potential, though, it is important to settle on your needs – whether personal, professional, or a combination of both – and then shop around to best meet them. And just as important as the connectivity package itself is the service that supports it.

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Homemation creates comfort through smart homes

Home automation is more than just turning the lights on and off, Homemation’s Gedaliah Tobias tells BRYAN TURNER

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The world is taking interior design notes from the Danish, in a style of living called hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). Its meaning varies from person to person: some see hygge as a warm fire on a cold winter’s night, others see it as a cup of hot coffee in the morning. The amount of “good feelings” one gets from these relaxing activities depends on what one values as indulgent.

But how does technology fit into this “art of feeling good”?

We asked Homemation marketing manager Gedaliah Tobias to take us through a fully automated home of the future and show us how automation creates comfort and good feelings.

“The house is powered by Control4, which you can think of as the brain of the smart home,” says Tobias. “It controls everything from the aircon to smart vacuum cleaners.”

The home of the future is secured by a connected lock. It acts like other locks with keypads and includes a key in the event of a power interruption. The keypad is especially useful to those who want to provide temporary access to visitors, staff, or simply kids who might lose their parents’ house keys.

“The keypad is especially useful for temporary access,” says Tobias. “For example, if you have a garden service that needs to use the home for the day, they can be given a code that only turns off the perimeter alarm beams in the garden for the day and time. If that code is used outside of the day and time range, users can set up alerts for their armed response to be alerted. This type of smart access boosts security.”

Once inside, one is greeted with a “scene” – a type of recipe for electronic success. The scene starts by turning on the lights, then by alerting the user to disarm the alarm. After the alarm is disarmed, the user can start another more complicated scene.

“Users can request customised scene buttons,” says Tobias. “For example, if I press the ‘Dinner call’ scene, the lights start to flash in the bedroom, there’s an announcement from the smart speakers, the blinds start to come down, the lighting is shifted to the dinner table. Shifting focus with lighting creates a mood to bring the house together for dinner.”

Homemation creates these customised scene buttons to enable users to control their homes without having to use another device. In addition to scene buttons, there are several ways to control the smart home.

 “Everything in the smart home is controllable from your phone, the touchscreens around the house, the TV, and the dedicated remote control. Everyone is different, so having multiple ways to control the house is a huge value add.”

We ask Tobias where Homemation recommends non-smart home users should start on their smart home journey.

“Before anything, the Control4 infrastructure needs to be set up. This involves a lot of communications and electrical cabling to be run to different areas of the home to enable connectivity throughout the home. After the infrastructure is set up, the system is ready for smart home devices, like lighting and sound.”

“For new smart home users, the best bang for their buck would be to start with lighting once the infrastructure is set up. Taking it one step at a time is wise.”

•    For more information, visit https://www.homemation.co.za/

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Face App grabs SA attention

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South Africans generated more than 100 000 search queries for “Face App” on Wednesday, while only generating 50 000 for “Mandela Day”. The Internet wentcrazy over the two-year-old app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a rendering of what users might look like in a few decades. Face App went viral as users posted their aged likenesses on social media in the #faceappchallenge. Privacy experts, however, warned that the app (made in Russia) may pose a threat to users’ privacy as it stores photos on its servers, with US Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, appealing to the FBI to investigate the app. 

In other top searches on Google this week, “Johnny Clegg” garnered more than 500 000 search queries on Tuesday as the news of his passing broke. The ‘White Zulu’ of Juluka and Savuka fame was an internationally acclaimed musician who was also an important figure in the fight against apartheid. Tributes to Clegg have been flooding media and social media over the past couple of days. Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66.

More than 200 000 search queries were generated for “Mark Batchelor” on Monday after the former soccer star was brutally gunned down outside his Olivedale home in Gauteng. Investigations into the shooting are still ongoing. Batchelor played for Orlando Pirates, Wits University, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana. 

“Jacob Zuma” also garnered more than 100 000 search queries on Monday as he made his first, much-anticipated appearance in front of the Zondo Commission on state capture. 

On Sunday “Macdonald Ndou” picked up more than 10 000 search queries after reports of theMuvhango actor’s arrest made the rounds. Ndou was held on various charges including extortion and kidnapping. The Hawks have reportedly provisionally withdrawn charges against the TV star, but a spokesperson said the decision to withdraw does not mean the charges will not be reinstated.

“Serena Williams” garnered more than 50 000 searches on Saturday as the tennis superstar suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final that lasted just 56 minutes. Williams later told Agence France Presse, “She [Halep] played out of her mind” and “I was like a deer in headlights”.

Last Friday, South Africans produced more than 20 000 search queries for “Duduzane Zuma” as the Randburg Magistrates Court found the former first son not guilty of a charge of culpable homicide. In February 2014, Zuma was involved in a car crash that took the life of Phumzile Dube when his vehicle crashed into the taxi she was travelling in.

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year, worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40 

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