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New undersea cable for SA

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MTN, PCCW, Saudi Telecom Company, Telecom Egypt and Telkom have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the construction a new submarine cable system to connect Africa with the Middle East and South Central Asia.

This consortium-funded system, called Africa-1, will connect Africa with the Middle East and South Central Asia and provide onward connectivity to Europe.

Companies named in the MoU are expected to be joined in the consortium by other carriers seeking to contribute to and to share in Africa-1’s roll-out. The consortium members have access to landings at all major cable systems in the Middle East, which is expected to facilitate efficient and effective connectivity between Africa-1 and the rest of the world.

Africa-1 will have at least 3-fiber pair core that extends more than 12 000 km along Africa’s East Coast towards Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, with up to an additional 5 000 km for branches.

“Africa-1 will leverage the latest state-of-the-art 100G technology and will be initially equipped to accommodate several terabits of capacity from day one,” reads a statement from PCCW Global. “Along with comprehensive interconnection with other cable systems and full Open Access at all cable landing points, Africa-1 will be technically and commercially be designed to be attractive, delivering easy accessibility and a unique low-latency direct express route.

The Construction and Maintenance Agreement is expected to be signed by June 2016, with a target ready for service timeframe of the third quarter of 2017

“We believe strongly in the potential success of this project due to the strength of our partners,” said Marc Halbfinger, chief executive officer of PCCW Global. “All are major telecommunications service providers who are committed to their customers and have strong records of success. We view Africa-1 as a natural extension to facilitate the increasing capacity demands of the Asia-Africa trade corridor with better levels of reliability to connect people and business in the world’s fast growing economies.”

John Unterhorst, MTN’s group executive responsible for global carrier services and group network and IP projects, hailed Africa-1 as a high capacity consortium initiative on the Eastern African seaboard that will complement existing cables now nearing their mid-life.

“Africa-1 will ensure future resiliency and capacity requirements for the explosive digital broadband future, so vital for Africa’s economic and social development,” he said.

Casper Kondo-Chihaka, managing executive of network engineering and build at Telkom SA, added: “In addition to complementing our existing high-bandwidth cable systems in the region, Africa-1 will provide more diversity for the large volume broadband traffic from South Africa to the rest of the world.”

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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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