South Africa’s mobile landscape changed dramatically last night with the launch of 8ta, the country’s fourth cellular network operator. Announcing simple and affordable products and services at a launch in Johannesburg, 8ta executives claimed their services will be regarded in South Africa as the one that will ‚get people to talk more.‚
Managing Executive of Telkom Mobile (branded as 8ta), Amith Maharaj, told guests, ‚We will provide the platform for South Africans to communicate more. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the start of a new era in mobile phone communication in South Africa.
Consumers will at last have a real choice.‚ Mr Maharaj promised that 8ta products would offer more value than any other network provider. For the first time in South Africa, all prepaid customers will benefit from free talk time to any network every time they receive calls from a mobile phone ‚ 1 free second of airtime for every 3 seconds of call received. This benefit is available all day, every day. Further, calls from 8ta to fixed line will cost 60 % less than typical market rates for similar calls, and there will be a flat rate of R2.50 per minute to over 100 international destinations. Additionally, when you send 5 SMSs in a day, 8ta will give you 50 bonus SMSs at no extra cost to use that same day.
The innovative network will also provide prepaid internet customers with an out-of-bundle rate of R1 per megabyte, while prepaid data bundles can be purchased for as low as 25c per megabyte.
8ta has constructed 800 base stations across the country, and plans to construct a further 3200 base stations over time to improve coverage and connectivity. The services have been built on an end-to-end all-IP 2G and 3G network, which is easily upgradable to LTE (4G). To ensure top notch customer service and quality of experience, a new call centre and new IT systems have also been implemented. Telkom Group Acting CEO Mr Jeffrey Hedberg said the launch of 8ta was a watershed event. ‚We are able to mobilise the reliability of fixed-line and the agility of mobile to provide products that South African people really want.‚
The launch revealed who was behind the high-profile Heita! campaign, which has intrigued the nation for the past weeks.
Telkom SA Managing Director Ms Nombulelo Moholi said: ‚We wanted to create a brand that builds upon Telkom’s heritage around quality and innovation. At the same time, we realised the need to be simple and to be authentically South African.‚ With tariffs that are easy to understand and buy, and with no hidden costs, 8ta looks forward to serving more of the population more of the time.
Additional technical information
The 8ta network will provide voice and data products and services over a unified 2G / 3G network. The state of the art network leverages a number of key technological advantages including software definable radios, remote electrical tilt antennas, an all-IP backhaul network, and a tailor made subscriber management platform.
The billing systems deployment ensures that all our customers, and not only those using prepaid services, have access to real-time usage information so that they can understand their consumption moment by moment, without unexpectedly high bills at the end of the month.
The Radio Access Network supports HSPA, is configured for downlink speeds up to 7.2Mbps, and can be provisioned to support download speeds of up to 21Mbps. In addition, the network hardware allows for a seamless migration to LTE (4G). A further advantage of the selected dualband network infrastructure is the significant power efficiency realised over other legacy systems (30% improvement). This translates into a far more cost effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly network deployment. The network architecture deployed is fully IP-based, from base station to core. It allows maximum efficiency of the backhaul while providing the relevant prioritisation of mobile service flows, translating into a better quality of service and overall experience for the customer. The 8ta network aims to further differentiate itself from its competitors by offering services never before seen in South Africa. In support of this the Core Applications and Services network makes use of cutting edge technology that is IP based, enabling flexible, innovative and quick-to-market services.
A national roaming agreement will see 8ta’s network augmented by MTN’s national coverage footprint at launch. This arrangement will support 8ta in extending its reach of services such as voice, 2G and 3G data, SMS, MMS and USSD to more than 96% of South Africans. In addition, 8ta will also offer a full international roaming service through another established and experienced international service provider when it launches post-paid services next month.
Prepare for Wi-Fi 6
From traffic to healthcare, the applications of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard are set to transform how we connect.
20 years ago, with the release of 802.11b, Wi-Fi began its conquest of the world networking scene in earnest. Wi-Fi can easily be called out as one of the most popular technologies of the last two decades. Just as mobile telephony and mobile internet, it has become a part of everyday life. And with the advent of IoT and the introduction of 5G, the time has come for the new standard – Wi-Fi 6.
Beyond being significantly faster than the previous generation, Wi-Fi 6 delivers up to four times greater capacity. Latency is vastly improved, allowing for near real-time use cases. Wi-Fi 6 is also easier on connected devices’ batteries.
So what impact will Wi-Fi 6 have on business in the coming years?
Digitisation, mobility and IoT are driving the need for connectivity. By 2022, more IP traffic will cross global networks than in all prior ‘internet years’ combined up to the end of 2016. In other words, more traffic will be created in 2022 than in the 32 years since the internet started. In 3 years, 28 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, many of which (robots, production lines, medical devices) will communicate over a wireless network. Against this background, it is easy to understand why we need a redesigned wireless standard that is more responsive to present and future challenges.
Wi-Fi 6: The business impact
“In the first phase, we expect the new wireless standard to gain a significant foothold in the B2B field, where it brings important innovations,” said Garsen Naidu, Country Manager, Cisco South Africa. “We will see it, together with other technologies, penetrate significantly into manufacturing, into the logistics industry. The technology is also more effective in high-density settings like large lecture halls, stadiums and conference rooms, so we are likely to see significant penetration in these settings too. And, with its extremely low latency, Wi-Fi 6 also promises to open up new opportunities in AR/VR, healthcare, and self-driving vehicles. ”
Ever since the launch of the Internet, every leap in network speed has had a major impact on technological innovation: 4G has brought along the age of smartphones, whilst 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will transform the business world. According to Cisco experts, these two technologies – 5G and Wi-Fi – will be widely adopted at the same time, complementing each other.
A short history of Wi-Fi
In 1999, half a dozen technology companies, including Aironet, which was later acquired by Cisco, formed the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance. The standard announced that year, 802.11b, which gained significant commercial traction, was the first to emerge under the ‘Wi-Fi’ brand. As such, 1999 marks the year in which Wi-Fi really began.
Solutions that carry the official Wi-Fi logo work consistently with the IEEE 802.11 data transfer standard. These solutions are certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which guarantees compatibility between various wireless devices. In addition, networking manufacturers have done a lot to improve compatibility. Launched as early as 2002, Cisco Compatible eXtensions is a free licensing program that has enabled other vendors’ Wi-Fi products to be securely deployed on Cisco wireless networks.
Subsequent developments in Wi-Fi technology included managing interference and increasing data stability. Cisco is supporting these with the Cisco Flexible Radio Assignment and Cisco CleanAir technologies. The latter is capable of identifying and graphically displaying radio interference, identifying the source of the problem, and directing users to other, less crowded, channels.
Challenges of the present and opportunities for the future
One of the most widespread business applications of wireless technology is office Wi-Fi. Using Wi-Fi, employees can move freely and access the network from anywhere where there is a hotspot. Wi-Fi-based analysis and location services are also becoming increasingly popular. And with the spread of IoT, Wi-Fi is becoming ubiquitous, and is today found everywhere from agricultural fields to production lines.
“We see promising business opportunities and a wide range of new applications. At the same time, with hundreds and thousands of new devices connecting to wireless networks, IT teams are facing increasing complexity. So we need to rethink IT architectures from the ground-up,” added Naidu.
Much of this need to rethink network architectures is driven by the enormous growth in wireless connectivity.
Wi-Fi has driven growth in general IT use, which in turn has led to the need to provide and run bigger and more complex networks with a greater variety of endpoint device types on them. This complexity ‘feedback loop’, driven in no small part by Wi-Fi, requires that new solutions are developed to deal with this complexity.
Cisco has pioneered in this area, using AI, machine learning, and machine reasoning, via products such as Cisco DNA Assurance to eliminate manual troubleshooting and reduce the time spent resolving service issues.
The latest Wi-Fi 6 developments introduced earlier this year make a consistent, efficient and seamless wireless connectivity experience a reality.
Getting London wired
Ruckus Wireless has been selected by Telef√≥nica UK, which operates the O2 brand, to supply high-capacity small cell products for high-speed wireless services being deployed throughout London.
Already deployed throughout the busiest, iconic areas in central London, such as Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, Leicester Square, Regent Street and Oxford Street, Ruckus SmartCell 8800s have initially been deployed to provide free, fast and reliable Wi-Fi to anyone.
Within a single, low-profile design, the SmartCell 8800 is the first carrier-grade, modular multi-radio system to integrate patented adaptive antenna array technology supporting multiple licensed and unlicensed radio technologies including: high-speed dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, small cell 3G/4G radios and 5GHz wireless backhaul. This gives Telef√≥nica UK the flexibility to easily and economically offer high-speed Wi-Fi and cellular services in specific locations when needed.
‚”For O2, it’s all about us providing customers with fast and reliable connectivity where they need it,‚” said Derek McManus, chief operating officer for Telef√≥nica UK. ‚”Our vision is for Wi-Fi to be simply another access layer to our mobile core. Customers don’t really care about the underlying technology: they care about getting connected, fast and reliably. The introduction of small cells helps us to support these requirements and completely complements our mobile strategy by letting us push capacity closer to users in locations where it makes the most sense.‚”
‚”In telecoms there is now a mad race to the lamppost, and the first one there wins,‚” said Selina Lo, president and CEO of Ruckus Wireless. ‚”A big barrier in small cell deployment is simply securing the physical locations with the requisite power and backhaul to support small cells. Once physical assets secured, it becomes important for operators to exploit them with as much technology as they can. This means multi-function, carrier-grade products that are simple deploy, unobtrusive and massively scalable. SmartCell is one of those products and O2 is one of those operators taking a lead in this race.‚”
After extensive evaluations of wireless suppliers, Telef√≥nica UK selected Ruckus and its SmartCell system. ‚”It all really boiled down to who had the best Wi-Fi for carriers and the most forward-thinking strategy to integrate Wi-Fi within existing and future cellular infrastructure,‚” said McManus.
‚”Such partnerships prove that industry players are starting to see the benefits Wi-Fi is bringing to their services,‚” adds Michael Fletcher sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. ‚”We are likely to continue to see more industry players embracing this transformation globally, and hopefully locally as well as operators look for solutions to cater for their growing customer base.‚”
Beating the Backhaul Dilemma
‚”A major challenge with small cell deployments is how to reliably backhaul traffic from potentially thousands of small cell nodes without breaking the bank,‚” said Robert Joyce, chief radio engineer at Telef√≥nica UK.‚”
Telef√≥nica UK effectively eliminates this problem by meshing traffic over highly reliable 5GHz Wi-Fi mesh links between nodes using Ruckus Smart Mesh technology. Smart Mesh uses advanced self-organising network (SON) principles with Ruckus-patented adaptive antenna arrays (BeamFlex) and predictive channel management techniques (ChannelFly). Combined these technologies create highly resilient, high-speed Wi-Fi mesh backbone links between nodes that automatically adapt to changes in environmental conditions.
Thought by many to not be possible, Smart Mesh has demonstrated to deliver reliable backhaul for licensed cellular and unlicensed Wi-Fi traffic in both line of sight and non-line of site environments.
‚”Ruckus Smart Mesh technology is proving to offer a cost-effective, reliable and flexible alternative to conventional approaches,‚” said Joyce. ‚”With Smart Mesh, we are running fiber to just one of every five nodes. This has proven to be a huge benefit in reducing capital and operational expense with the added bonus of reducing the time to market.‚”
Big Improvements with Small Cells
Small cells represent a new architectural approach for injecting much needed capacity into service provider networks. Small cells are miniature base stations that combine licensed and unlicensed radio technology with wireless backhaul to deliver lower powered wireless signals much closer to mobile users. This results in better signal coverage, improved voice quality and higher data performance.
Small cells enable operators to provide a premium quality mobile signal where it was never previously economic, such as indoor environments and remote outdoor locations. They also enable operators to meet the burgeoning demand for mobile data, by multiplying the data capacity of the macro network at a fraction of the cost.
With the Ruckus SmartCell system, mobile operators gain a capacity boost from LTE small cells, cutting costs and complexity by co-locating and combining them with Wi-Fi access points, sharing site-lease agreements and backhaul. The integration of Wi-Fi and LTE small cells within the cellular core also helps operators optimize network utilization across the radio access network, providing a further improvement in performance, and creating a seamless experience for subscribers.
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