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Telkom promises 1m fibre lines

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Telkom has announced that it will double its fibre rollout to 70 000 homes by December 2015, with that capacity reaching 150 000 houses by March next year, and finally being able to provide fibre access to one million homes by 2018.

Telkom has announced that 38 000 homes were given access to fibre by the end of August 2015 and 1 317 LTE sites added to the network. The company will double the fibre rollout to 70 000 homes by December 2015 and will have capacity to connect 150 000 homes by March 2016 and 500 000 by December 2016. By 2018, Telkom says, it will have provided access for one million homes to connect to fibre.

In his address to delegates attending the Southern African Telecommunications Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC) in Hermanus, Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said Telkom is committed to democratising broadband access. “We have set ourselves the objective of contributing to transforming the South African economy. South Africa is a developing democracy. We want to accelerate this development,” said Maseko.

While Telkom’s fibre rollout for large metropolitan areas will continue, the company is working with government to provide broadband to under-serviced areas.

At the same time, there must be a recognition that the digital divide is alive and well in South Africa. “We must recognise that the issue of access lies at the heart of the divide. You either have access or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. To cross the digital divide, you must provide universal access,” said Maseko.

Telkom has already begun reducing wholesale prices in order to bring down the cost to communicate and has launched a 1Mbit DSL service to reduce the barriers to broadband access.

Earlier this year, Telkom alluded to the potential for it to become an open-access operator. The company today confirmed that it will open copper access at 200 exchanges on a trial basis, thus effectively paving the way for a more open access approach, depending on the outcome of the trial. Telkom is committed to the establishment of an open-access regime for the entire industry to realise South Africa’s objectives.

Maseko called on mobile operators to join Telkom to bridge the digital divide. “If we are to overcome the access deficit, and in light of the mobile revolution and the benefits this has engendered, South Africa needs to see wholesale access to the mobile local loop and active sharing of the radio access network. This is an imperative and an important precursor for democratising broadband,” said Maseko.

South Africa requires decisive, unambiguous action to ensure its competitiveness, he said. It also needs fair access to spectrum, in particular Sub-1 Ghz, for rural coverage and good indoor coverage in urban areas. Maseko noted that this is particularly true for Telkom, the only mobile operator without Sub-1 Ghz spectrum. Maseko called on South Africa’s telecoms regulator to consider its spectrum strategy to allow for fairer distribution of spectrum.

In order to make broadband access meaningful, South Africa should also reconsider import duties which limit broader access to affordable smart devices costing less than R1 000.

“As a nation we’ve done some pretty remarkable things. We can do so again. I believe we are at an inflection point. History will judge us one day on how we –  government, operators, academia, the regulators and original equipment manufacturers – have used our collective resources to bring about sustainable change and economic development by bringing broadband to our people,” concluded Maseko.

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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