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Teraco links with Euro hub

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Teraco Data Environments, South Africa’s first provider of vendor neutral data centres has connected with the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), which interconnects over 550 IP networks, making it the world’s leading Internet hub.

The direct link to Teraco’s peering service NAPAfrica, which is effective from March 2013, brings Africa substantially closer to Europe in terms of connectivity, and ultimately offers endless opportunities for European carriers to connect across Africa.

Lex van Wyk, chief executive officer of Teraco Data Environments, says that the perfect storm now exists for African Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to tap further into global carrier networks through vendor-neutral peering at NAPAfrica, thereby offering African consumers access to high speed connections at a dramatically reduced cost as well as rich global content from international carriers.

Job Witteman, chief executive officer of AMS-IX, says that the connection between Teraco and AMS-IX provides exciting opportunities through reduced rate connections to Africa and likewise from Teraco’s peering point for African carriers to its own exchange. ‚”By peering at NAPAfrica in Teraco, we are able to broaden our own horizons into the African continent and allow African parties to access more than 550 IP networks at our exchange. We’re excited to be able to play our part in bringing global content to citizens across Africa in this way.‚”

Van Wyk says that with the initial introduction of route servers by NAPAfrica early in 2012 there has been a subsequent overall reduction in ISP operating costs in the South African market through the simplification of the peering process. He says that route servers lower the barrier to entry for African ISPs that do not necessarily have the resources or hardware to manage multiple connections to numerous peers. There are over 50 peers live at NAPAfrica with access to over 21 local and international carriers.

Teraco offers the choice of both multi-lateral and bi-lateral peering which then helps all members to connect to the exchange based on what is preferable to their business. Teraco is the most connected data centre facility in Africa already offering connectivity to major international carriers including SAT3/SAFE, Seacom, WACS and EASSy: mobile carriers including Vodacom, MTN and Cell C: local carriers including Telkom, Neotel and Broadband Infraco and fibre infrastructure provider, Dark Fibre Africa and many more.

‚”Colocation in a facility such as Teraco creates a virtual marketplace for ISPs and the providers of various products and technologies to white label, buy and sell services within the data centre without incurring transit costs to reach one another’s infrastructure. Through NAPAfrica and Africa Cloud eXchange (ACX) these ecosystems are a reality, providing smaller ISPs and many start-ups with world class infrastructure and enabling them to compete on an equal footing,‚” says van Wyk.

Van Wyk says that joining the Teraco environment should be equally attractive to international carriers looking to tap into mobile data potential on the African continent. ‚”Peering through a vendor-neutral facility like NAPAfrica provides a simple and secure portal for international carriers to connect with African carriers and ISPs.‚”

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Telcos want one face

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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

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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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