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No ISP costs for Durban port

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) will extend its existing waiver of port fees for the Durban Internet Exchange Point (DINX) until the end of June 2013

This move is intended to further strengthen the use of the DINX by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for peering, thus driving down network costs within the greater Durban area.

Internet exchange points are physical locations, or ports, that allow separate networks to connect with each other. ISPA commissioned the DINX in September 2012, complementing its existing points in Johannesburg (JINX) and Cape Town (CINX). These Internet exchange points allow networks to route local traffic locally, without having to use expensive transnational backhaul facilities. In this way, Internet exchange points promote ‚”peering‚”, the direct interconnection of two networks without transit costs being incurred.

ISPA is seeking to build support for local peering in Durban, by extending the current port fee waiver at the physical site of the interconnection.

Nishal Goburdhan, ISPA’s Internet Exchange Point Manager explains: “Thanks to donations from our partners Teraco, Juniper and XON, we’re able to keep the initial costs of peering at minimum. This is excellent news for new peers who are evaluating connecting, and who are unsure about the short-term gains. We already have participants taking advantage of this offer, and more are in the process of installing equipment to make the necessary interconnections. We’re confident that once operators start seeing the enormous benefits of peering, they won’t want to switch back.””

Mr Goburdhan says that by enabling network operators in the Durban area to interconnect there, rather than routing traffic up to Johannesburg for interconnection and then back again, the DINX will save costs and will improve network performance. The availability of new services like DSL IPC in KwaZulu-Natal and the release of high-speed VDSL services, will only increase the cost and performance benefits from local peering.

“”It’s all about keeping traffic local. Initially, it was about doing that within the country and now we’re simply extending that paradigm to the major metropolitan areas. We see the DINX as an important growth lever, particularly for ISPs in the KwaZulu-Natal region immediately and later for regional connections facilitated through submarine landing stations like the nearby Mtunzini station,”” adds Graham Beneke, Chair of ISPA’s INX Working Group.

Grant Pasley, CEO of Durban-based ISP Xstranet Internet Services, has found peering via the DINX to be hugely beneficial. “”Xtranet connected to the DINX in December 2012, and it’s been a network changing event for us. We’re new to the peering game, but the technical team’s assistance was amazing from the start, and our new peering link has enabled us to make real cost savings,‚”” he says. ‚””We would like to see use of the DINX grow tremendously this year as it is a very cost-effective method of speeding up data exchange between local ISPs without impacting on more expensive transit bandwidth. I highly encourage other local ISPs to interconnect at the DINX and we look forward to welcoming many more additional new peers this year.””

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Telcos want one face

The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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