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Herotel ramps up as it takes fibre to rural SA

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The company that brought free Wi-FI to the city of Tshwane has quietly been building out its connectivity business – and is about to go large in the fibre market.

Herotel, which has been establishing itself as one of South Africa’s leading “last-mile” operators, announced today that it is consolidating its fibre assets and wireless internet service provider brands under the Herotel name, with a fresh national trademark.

“Over the last five years, Herotel has been quietly acquiring over 40 owner-operated businesses, which until now remained trading under their original brands,” says CEO Van Zyl Botha. “The plan has always been to unite these companies into a single national entity, which can then use its scale to bring about meaningful change to an industry that desperately needs a shake-up.”

As part of its acquisition campaign, Herotel also focused on software platforms, voice providers, and fibre networks.

“By putting all of these pieces together, it brings us closer to our vision: Everyone connected. It is the next step in our journey to bring excellent, affordable internet to all.”

Founded in 2014 with the stated goal of providing a single national fibre and wireless broadband provider that can better service South Africa’s growing internet connectivity needs, Herotel currently services around 83 000 home and business internet users.

Van Zyl says that enabling connection across the country enriches the lives of ordinary South Africans, stimulating GDP growth by driving skills development and creating job opportunities.

“While the fragmented local internet market has served a vital role in connecting underserviced regions of South Africa, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By consolidating the market, Herotel is unlocking this collective value; amassing the scale and capabilities necessary to address the ongoing industry issues that prevent the national availability of internet.”

Already operating in over 400 towns, Herotel is building, selling and maintaining its own next-generation fibre and fixed-wireless networks across the country, servicing areas that many other industry players have not been able to reach.

“We are very happy to let our competitors fight it out in Sandton and Sea Point while we quietly build fibre and wireless networks in the more underserviced areas. These have included larger towns like Potchefstroom, Worcester, Port Elizabeth, Klerksdorp, and East London, as well as rural towns that others would never consider, like Queenstown, Cradock, Lichtenburg, and Wolmaransstad.

“Our operators all live in the towns we connect, so if your home internet is down it is also down at our staff’s homes. We are woven into the communities we connect and will continue to invest into and serve them to the best of our abilities.

“We believe that our current scale will allow us to play a meaningful role in correcting the connectivity imbalances that currently exist in these areas As we grow we are open to further acquisitions that bring new geographic areas or fresh skills into the group. Ultimately, our aim is to offer unrivalled customer satisfaction to our home and business clients, who rely on us for their video, data and voice solutions and services.”

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Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving

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For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com

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Coronavirus to hit 5G

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Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
5G19199
Rest of Market13941165
Total14131364
 
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
5G1%15%
Rest of Market99%85%
Total100%100%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.

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