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High-tech satellite to beam broadband from space

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Intelsat, operator of the world’s first globalized network, recently announced that the Intelsat 33e, the second of the Intelsat Epic high throughput satellites (HTS), successfully completed all in-orbit testing and is in service.

Manufactured by Boeing and launched in August 2016, Intelsat 33e is equipped with the most advanced digital payload on a commercial spacecraft. With this exceptionally flexible HTS payload design, Intelsat 33e, operating from 60° East, will extend Intelsat’s HTS services in C-, Ku- and Ka-band to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean regions. This will enable the delivery of enterprise-grade, broadband services to fixed and mobile network operators, aeronautical and maritime mobility service providers and government customers. Intelsat 33e’s powerful spot beams will also enable the distribution of regionalized content for media customers operating in the region.

The customers committed to Intelsat 33e and the applications supported reflect the vast geographic coverage of the satellite:

  • Maritime broadband leaders GEE, Speedcast and Marlink
  • In-flight entertainment and connectivity leaders Gogo and Panasonic Avionics
  • Pakistani Internet service provider SuperNet Limited
  • Telecommunications infrastructure customers Telkom South Africa, Orange Cameroon, IP Planet, Vodacom, Djibouti Telecom and Africell RDC SPRL
  • Russian network service providers Romantis and RuSat LLC support enterprise applications
  • Media companies TV & Radio Broadcasting (formerly Television and Radio Broadcasting of Armenia) and MultiChoice of South Africa

In addition to existing customers, Intelsat 33e is attracting new customers. For example, Africa Mobile Networks (AMN), which delivers commercial service to previously unconnected rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa, will use Intelsat Epic to help mobile network operators expand in these areas in a cost-effective manner and deliver social, economic, educational and other benefits to the population.

“The experience of implementing Intelsat Epic and bringing it to our customers has affirmed our beliefs about the potential of HTS,” said Stephen Spengler, Chief Executive Officer, Intelsat. “We have a dynamic, open and evolving platform that will increase in capability over time, providing a technology hedge for our customers that need to make investments today on which they can build for a decade of growth. Intelsat is delivering on the promise of HTS, and our design and strategy will advance our vision of unlocking access to new, larger and faster growing sectors for Intelsat and our customers.”

“Many U.S. government customers are eager to begin using Intelsat 33e,” said Skot Butler, President, Intelsat General Corporation. “Testing previously conducted with Intelsat 29e using a small, flat-panel antenna designed for aeronautical applications confirmed that the Intelsat Epic platform delivers superior performance for unmanned aircraft systems. The coverage Intelsat 33e provides is ideal to support U.S. Department of Defense mobility applications and means deployed forces in these regions will benefit from the same game-changing performance and efficiency that Intelsat Epic already delivers in the Americas and the North Atlantic.”

Intelsat Epic services were launched in March 2016 with Intelsat 29e, which is located at 310° East and offers a footprint spanning the Americas, the Caribbean, Eastern United States and the burgeoning North Atlantic region. Three additional Intelsat Epic satellites – Intelsat 32e, Intelsat 35e and Intelsat 37e – are scheduled for launch in 2017. Intelsat Epic’s global footprint will be completed with Horizons 3e, which is to be stationed at 169° East with a launch planned in the second half of 2018.  Horizons 3e will extend Intelsat Epic’s coverage to the Pacific Ocean Region and further expand Intelsat Epic’s presence in Asia Pacific.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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