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MTN calls for spectrum

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MTN recently said in a statement that the allocation of additional radio spectrum will enable operators to improve their service offerings by deploying new generation networks.

The growth of the telecoms sector and the development of the country is dependent on the expeditious allocation of radio spectrum, which will enable operators to improve their service offerings by deploying new generation networks in line with customer requirements, MTN said in a statement.

MTN says it is encouraged by the strides that the regulator has made to finalise the process of spectrum allocation. However, it believes that speeding up the process will augur well for an improved and seamless customer experience, as operators will have the leeway to deploy new generation networks that will meet the increasing data needs and absorb increasing data traffic.

Mteto Nyati, Chief Executive Officer of MTN South Africa, told the media at a press briefing hosted in Johannesburg that 98% of subscribers are served by just 40% of the allocated spectrum, which is exerting a constricting pressure on the networks that are built on frequencies that are not suitable for data intensive applications.

“The rapid adoption of smart devices, which compliments government’s vision of bridging the digital divide and universal access to broadband services, has increased traffic on our networks substantially, and has rendered access to spectrum more urgent,” said Nyati. He added that the growth of data intensive services such as video is exacerbating traffic and adding pressure on the already clogged networks.

Nyati said that MTN will continue to engage with its principals to speed up the auction of spectrum, as access to spectrum forms part of MTN’s ongoing efforts to improve customer experience.

“The re-farming of existing spectrum to cater for LTE technology is an interim measure, as access to the high demand spectrum is the prerequisite for the provision of high performance networks and seamless network experience,” said Nyati.

He added: “South Africa has made enormous strides in delivering voice telephony and data services. The availability of high-demand radio spectrum will allow deployment of networks for the digital age that permits higher data speeds, which increase network capacity and enhance customer experience. This will also allow us to introduce avant-garde digital solutions.”

Lack of high-demand radio spectrum has compelled MTN to re-farm existing spectrum to cater to the pent-up demand for digital services, which operators cannot continue to meet without the allocation of the high-demand spectrum.

Nyati said that despite a challenging operating environment, MTN has made encouraging progress in meeting its strategic objectives, namely returning to growth, transforming customer experience and overhauling people engagement.

Nyati said MTN has prioritised transforming customer experience as one of the key differentiators that will set MTN apart from the competition. To that end, MTN embarked on an aggressive network rollout which saw the operator increasing spend by 92.9% last year and adding 966 2G sites, 1 593 largely co-located 3G sites and 3 148 LTE sites to its network.

 

In response to customer demands, MTN has also simplified its products, processes and systems, and will be introduced a cutting-edge platform called Shifta, which allows customers to create their own post-paid packages by customising the duration, services, devices that suits their needs.

Nyati said that MTN has also opened a flagship store at the Mall of Africa, a cutting-edge paperless store that is geared towards improved customer experience.

 

MTN has also signed a recognition agreement with the Communications Workers Union (CWU). The recognition agreement creates a formal bargaining agreement environment that will govern relations between MTN and its unionised employees.

As a socially responsible corporate citizen, Nyati said, MTN always seeks to ensure that its operations have minimal impact on the environment. To that end, MTN continues to invest in sustainability and energy management initiatives. This includes the 2MW tri-generation plant, the first of its kind in Africa, which powers its head office in Fairlands, Johannesburg.

Nyati announced that the thermal plant in Doornfontein, which generate 1MW + 750kW, is operational, and so is the thermal plant in Newlands, which generates 5.2MW + 2MW. MTN also has a concentrated solar plant, which has a capacity of 380kW and powers its data centre, and a free cooling Heat Wheel, which generates 600kW of energy.

“We are closer to being certified as an Independent Power Producer by the National Electricity Regulator of SA (NERSA), and we look forward to contribute positively to the energy eco-system in the country by offloading the excess capacity that we generate back onto the grid,” said Nyati.

Looking ahead, Nyati announced that MTN will be ramping up its full service ICT offering through MTN Business, delivering high-speed broadband to households and businesses through FTTx rollout, driving LTE and 3G handset distribution across all segments and decreasing 2G distribution share across all channels.

“Additional focus areas for this year will be revisiting customer value proposition to drive data usage and digital content services, streamlining the supply chain model, incorporating our comprehensive back-office transformation programme,” said Nyati.

MTN is the largest digital music distributor and the largest mobile bank in Africa, based on digital music and funds transferred. “We will continue to build a digital ecosystem to deliver a bold new digital world for our customers,” said Nyati.

Through the MTN SA Foundation, MTN continues to make a positive difference in the communities it operates in.

“Using the power of ICT, MTN contributes to enhancing learning and teaching in South Africa through educator ICT training and up-skilling, learner ICT support, school connectivity and curriculum digitisation. MTN also contributes to socio-economic development of disadvantaged communities in South Africa through tele-medicine and e-health training, health screening and wellness initiatives support, enterprise development and strategic arts partnerships in communities,” said Nyati.

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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