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NAPAfrica enters IXP top 15

Teraco, Africa’s only vendor neutral data centre, has announced that Africa’s largest Internet Exchange Point (IXP), NAPAfrica is now ranked in the top 15 of the largest global IXPs.

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This ranking position is in terms of the number of unique ASNs or peering members across the IXP. Andrew Owens, Technical Manager – Interconnection & Peering, Teraco, says that NAPAfrica has 323 members and has truly established itself as the interconnection and content hub for sub-Saharan Africa, connecting to over 350 unique ASN’s servicing 16 countries.

Owens says that the success of an IXP should be measured by its ability to sustainably contribute to the development of the Internet ecosystem within its community: “Several NAPAfrica members claim that as much as 80% of their traffic is peered at the exchange. This significantly lowers transport costs across the southern continent and enables clients to offer a better service at far more competitive prices.”

In 2010, Teraco approached the Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) to suggest moving the Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) and establish the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) at Teraco’s facilities, which was the only neutral data centre available at the time. The proposal was rejected, which led to Lex van Wyk and Andrew Owens building an exchange. This was the start of a great Internet adventure and a steep learning curve for Teraco.

The first significant milestone was reached when Google joined the IXP and started peering its content in 2012. “Later that same year more content providers joined, most notably Akamai and Optinet, and the exchange soared to a new high of 1Gbps of traffic. Members soon realised the very real value of picking up content locally,” says Owens.  He says that the exchange has also become more attractive as content players watch the number of users and traffic increase.

By 2016, NAPAfrica exceeded peak daily throughput of 100Gbps; Telkom Openserve announced its decision to peer and the NAPAfrica community was firmly on the map as the largest in Africa. Early 2017 saw NAPAfrica upgrading its infrastructure to a new Arista platform. Owens says this was driven by client demand as they continued to enjoy the growth in Internet traffic across the continent: “100Gbps ports are the new standard and we are upgrading existing clients on a daily basis,” says Owens.

He says that the first client to upgrade to a 100Gbps port was Afrihost and the demand has continued: “The NAPAfrica platform has the hardware, capability and traffic to support this level of investment into Internet infrastructure. Prices have also dropped significantly, down to around 25% of the levels last seen in late 2016, making this an affordable option when upgrading.”

As Southern Africa continues to grow and prove itself to be the African continent’s largest colocation market, larger than the next 20 African markets combined according to Xalam Analytics, the role of an IXP such as NAPAfrica becomes more critical. “Developing Africa’s Internet ecosystem is a primary role of an IXP together with infrastructure providers such as Teraco. In the eight years since the start of NAPAfrica, sub-Saharan Africa has benefited from local and international content from leading providers such as Akamai, Cloudflare, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon, Verizon Digital Media, Limelight and Optinet.” 

Because most of the major network operators in Southern Africa peer at NAPAfrica, large amounts of content reach the man on the street.  This combination of network and content operators working together, assists in making the end user Internet work.

Achieving a position in the top 15 globally, Owens says; “NAPAfrica will continue to upgrade its infrastructure. The volume of Internet traffic is steadily increasing with Johannesburg reaching 400Gbps, and Cape Town is almost at 100Gbps. We are ready to meet further demand and growth.”

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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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