As the wait for fibre-to-business gets wearisome, some customers are looking for alternatives. One such is microwave, which ECKART ZOLLNER of Jasco, believes is a viable last mile stand-in.
Microwave technology for data transmission has advanced considerably. As the long wait for fibre-to-the-business gets wearisome and begins to hamper productivity and operational effectiveness for some, and customers begin to move to the competition, microwave is becoming a viable last mile stand-in.
It’s not always possible or desirable to put fibre in the ground. It can be costly, so there needs to be a big enough demand before operators will invest. In addition, even with overhead fibre transmission, permissions need to be obtained and regulations met, which can be time consuming and painstaking. Microwave, a point to point technology that works well over short distances, provides an ideal alternative, especially as the technology has become more robust and mobile solutions make it easy for operators to ‘drive and park’ microwave equipment wherever they need it.
The biggest challenge in the past has been the shortcomings of the technology. Vulnerability to atmospheric interference – other frequencies and heavy downpours, for example — can result in degraded transmission. Microwave technologies were also not robust enough to reliably transmit high speed data. In addition, setting up the point-to-point connections was difficult. New advances have improved these weaknesses including new software to auto recognise focal points and troubleshoot, and new technologies that make microwave less prone to interference.
This makes microwave very relevant to companies in remote areas or with challenging geography that require the throughput; for remote or rural towns that need a high speed link to centres of commerce; and to operators dealing with growing traffic and customer bases, as an inexpensive backhaul solution or for additional redundancy.
How easy is it to implement?
Microwave is a high frequency solution requiring line of site to the next tower to transmit data, with a range of anything from 1 to 100km. The cost of the implementation is usually integrated into and spread across the period of the subscription period – e.g. 24 to 36 months – while monthly costs will vary from a couple of thousand rand to tens of thousands of Rand depending on the bandwidth and the traffic utilised.
While users can make use of a common unlicensed frequency for their solution, in certain areas it can be crowded and noisy and quality of service cannot be guaranteed. A number of large South African operators have the required licensed frequency spectrum and have created a microwave network that their clients can leverage. To connect, a microwave dish needs to be installed at the client site within line of site of the operator’s microwave tower/s, or the closest microwave dish.
The service provider will provide the resources to do the planning and installation. They make use of specialist providers to get the job done well within budget and deadlines. Over the next three to five years as fibre slowly grows, demand for microwave technologies is expected to continue to grow. It may be an alternative, backup solution or interim solution worth considering.
* Eckart Zollner, Head of Business Development at the Jasco Group
Money talks and electronic gaming evolves
Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.
The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.
The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games.
It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.
MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.
“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”
New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.
“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”
Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.
Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.
This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.
A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.
Each block stores:
– A number of valid records or transactions.
– Information referring to that block.
– A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.
Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.
As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.
How is blockchain so secure?
Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.
Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.
In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.
What else can blockchain be used for?
Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.
Use of blockchain in healthcare
Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.
Use of blockchain for documents
Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.
Other blockchain uses
This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.
Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.
Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.