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Mobile operators must embrace power of the ‘and’

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Operators need to take a holistic approach to their network and embrace the ‘power of and’ if they are to meet rising customer demand, improve scalability and reduce network complexity.

Speaking during a keynote conference session at Broadband World Forum, Federico Guillén told the conference session there is no single technology or access mode which will deliver ubiquitous ultrafast connectivity, and instead a combination of technologies is required. This is especially true if the industry is to deliver on the promise of 5G.

Those operators which don’t recognize the ‘power of and,’ he warned, could fail to meet speed and connectivity targets and lose ground to competition.

“The strategy of deploying fiber to the most economical point in the network is still valid, but the combination of fixed fiber, wireless and other access technologies is now even more crucial to the operator’s business case,” said Guillén. “Fixed networks are going to be essential for the growth of 5G, for example, as they will complement wireless for mobile transport. We will also see a combination of fiber and fixed wireless access to deliver ultra-broadband to the home using technologies such as WiGig. This convergence of fixed and wireless is one aspect of what we are calling the ‘power of and’.”

According to Guillén, the second element of this approach is delivering a gigabit experience both to and into the home. This, he continued, has been a pressure point for operators with poor in-building wiring or Wi-Fi, and can comprise more than 30% of calls to a broadband operator’s helpdesk.

“With all the focus on getting ultra-broadband to the front door, it is also important not to neglect the in-home network,” said Guillén. “Wi-Fi is a critical part of the end-to-end service, but is often the weak link. Delivering a gigabit experience both to and throughout the whole home is crucial, and we need to reach a point where end-users don’t have to think about their Wi-Fi – it’s just there.”

Guillén went on to explain that virtualization will have a key role keeping operational costs low as the network gets more complex, provided it is used in the right way.

“There is no doubt that virtualization can simplify networks, and the third ‘power of and’ is in the network and the cloud; moving hardware here makes networks easier to manage and scale,” he said. “However, virtualizing everything is not the answer. Operators must look at the business case for virtualization and identify which areas are going to provide the most value.”

Guillén’s presentation comes as Nokia launches Intelligent Access, an enhanced portfolio of access solutions to build gigabit-ready networks. This includes Software Defined Access Network (SDAN) technology and a new carrier-grade in-home Wi-Fi solution.

“The ‘power of and’ is the driving concept behind Intelligent Access. By taking a holistic approach, operators can enhance their network, deliver a gigabit experience to the end-user and make their operations faster, better and smarter,” Guillén concluded.

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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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