31 Oct 2013

The last frontier – the last mile

David Meads, Cisco Vice President, Africa

Transforming countries on the African continent into knowledge-based economies is the natural next step in growing industry, society, and the economy as a whole.  Without advanced connectivity linking every individual and everything to the internet, there are limits to the amount of data that can be gathered and used to improve education, health and service delivery. Without this real-time data, available for advanced analysis, there can be no accurate forecasting, resource allocation and systems management.  Without connectivity, individuals and businesses cannot compete in the global market.

David Meads, Cisco Vice President, Africa
Now, connectivity is almost as crucial for a nation’s survival and growth as energy, water and transport. According to research by Booz & Company, the mass adoption of digital technologies by consumers, companies and governments could deliver, ‘up to US$6.3 trillion [approx. ZAR62.5 trillion] in additional nominal GDP and a staggering 77 million new jobs over the next 10 years. For Africa, with its challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, ICT is a lever for change.

The process of rolling out this connectivity across the continent has progressed significantly, with the arrival of vast amounts of international bandwidth. But simply arriving on our shores is not enough. The next critical phase of connectivity entails working with service providers to help them deliver optical infrastructure, taking robust optical networks into urban areas, and using 4G, LTE and small cell technologies to take broadband across the country. The real challenge, and the last frontier, is the last mile.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013 – The Networked Readiness Index 2013, South Africa is in 70th position, while Egypt comes in at 80th, Kenya 92nd and Nigeria 113th. Despite a sharp improvement in the development of Africa’s ICT infrastructure, notably in terms of international Internet bandwidth, capacity and a strong uptake by the business community, the ICT impacts, particularly the social ones, remain limited.

Addressing the last mile challenges will require innovation, co-investment and standardisation, to build a network capable of supporting broadband penetration aspirations.

With the last mile challenge addressed, Africa will be set to embrace the Internet of Everything, connecting people, process, things and data, to create innovations that transform business and public service in ways that cannot yet be imagined.

Cisco are a proud sponsor of AfricaCom 2013. Come and meet them at stand F05b by registering for your free ticket to AfricaCom Here

30 Oct 2013

Monetising digital switchover in emerging markets

Andrew Pons, Director of Marketing, Exset

Many people will know about the Digital Divide, the gap between those who have the ability, or economic wherewithal, to take advantage of the information age via appropriate technology and those that don’t. Many often limit the definition to those who can and can’t access the Internet.

While this can be a valid indicator, in some ways it’s easy for people to dismiss that issue as for many Internet access still hovers between luxury and utility. In reality in the developed world we’re now reliant upon the Internet for many things: within a very short space of time we’ve built access to that information into our daily lives.

As markets continue to move at a rapid pace through technology cycles, the issue deepens: it is not access to the Internet per se that is the issue necessarily, but that key information that it contains.

Looking in a little more depth there are other issues. What becomes apparent is that owning a computer – or having access to one – doesn’t necessarily equate to accessing the Internet. In high-income countries, according to a major ITU report entitled Measuring the Information Society 2011, the discrepancy between computer ownership and Internet usage is negligible: both figures hover around 90 per cent for 15 to 74 year-olds. This is the case in Iceland, Norway and Sweden for example. Indeed in some countries – Japan being a case in point – more people access the Internet than own computers. But if we look at Senegal then the figures are not only lower but the discrepancy appears: 34 per cent used a computer in 2010 but only 13 per cent accessed the Internet. Similar situations exist throughout the developing world. – the reports states that in Sub Saharan Africa less than 16 per cent of homes have internet access.

Before we lose ourselves in a world of statistics, there’s another key factor that the ITU report highlights. It says, “Data on Internet use by level of education show that Internet usage is much higher among people with higher levels of education. A higher educational level generally also implies higher income and greater computer literacy, both of which are important factors that drive Internet use.”

At the same time, what’s interesting to note is that according to a report from Dataxis Intelligence, television penetration across one of the key developing regions of the world – Africa – is set to reach 50 per cent by 2015, or 123 million television households. A report from Digital TV adds that by 2017 there will be 50m TV household in Sub-Saharan Africa. Television – specifically digital broadcast technologies – is able to fill a very important role where the Internet doesn’t (and may never) reach.

As the ITU clearly states in a 2010 article about switching to digital, “Broadcasting is one of the most economic and influential media for delivering content such as news, education and entertainment. Broadcasting also contributes to narrowing the Digital Divide. Now broadcasting is on the verge of a revolution that is expected to affect not only broadcasting itself but also other media. The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting will create great opportunities for the provision of information and communication technology (ICT) applications and multimedia services, including higher quality video and interactivity.”

So what are the challenges facing operators and governments wanting to roll out digital television services in developing markets? Monetisation – or cost, depending on the viewpoint - alongside the skillsets required to pull together what can be complex technological solutions are very real hurdles. Let us be clear: we are talking about both about pay-TV here, be that DTT, DTH or cable and monetising the switchover to digital systems. The question arises that if you are not set up to supply service to the higher income sections of society then how can you monetise your business? As Rapid TV News said earlier this year, “Premium DTH services such as the top DStv packages are currently affordable for just a fraction of African homes, mostly in South Africa…”

The switch to digital TV provides both a very real challenge for developing nations as well as a very real opportunity and this is where Exset – and its Digital Monetisation System (DMS) - comes in. Can the switch to digital television help to overcome the Digital Divide?

Exset is a broadcast technology and solutions company founded in 2011. It focuses on emerging markets where localisation, social and economic factors require a fresh approach. Exset understands that pay-TV needs a new monetisation model for emerging markets in order to succeed. That’s why it created Digital Monetization System (DMS) - a unique business and technology model that makes pay-TV self-financing without depending exclusively on subscriber fees for revenue. DMS bridges the gap between technology supply and value-add service creation, facilitating digital television platforms that can be monetised where previously virtually impossible. This allows populations to benefit from new information and entertainment services while operators and governments, when partnering with Exset, monetise digital switchover and assist in bringing about social transformation.

DMS allows operators to publish a series of images and text services (alongside the TV content) in the form of pages that can be used to bring in new revenue to operators through new advertising apps. The TV portal that DMS facilitates allows operators to offer these new services to its customers through a series of apps: a magazine app allowing viewers to read magazines; shopping apps allowing instant purchase of goods to be done via mobile phone text service; public service apps updated and informed by government departments to keep the population up to date with information bulletins on public services being offered. Exset delivers a new business model via revenue generating technology with the experience and understanding of working within these markets.

Exset are an associate sponsor of AfricaCast 2013. Come and meet them at by registering for your ticket to AfricaCom Here

28 Oct 2013

Optimizing LTE Deployments for Highest Return on Investment

A September 2013 report by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) confirmed that LTE is the fastest developing mobile system technology ever. To date, 213 networks have been commercially launched globally, with 113 launched in the past year alone. Six African countries already have commercial LTE networks in place and deployments in Africa are expected to continue to keep pace with the global trend.

With more LTE deployments in Africa being planned every day, it is important for operators to optimize their launch strategy to capitalize on the benefits LTE offers today and over the long term. By integrating innovative network enablers, operators can improve their time-to-market and time-to-revenue with LTE, while also ensuring they continue to receive a high return on investment long after deployment is complete.

Limited Cell Site Space Creates Challenges
Some of the biggest challenges operators in Africa face are associated with ensuring base stations can support a variety of networks and frequencies. In most areas, there are restrictions on the number of cell towers that can be deployed and where they can be located. Often, operators must share space on existing towers and engineer their networks to deal with space limitations, RF interference, and the challenges imposed by weight and wind load allowances.
Ivan Jensen
Sr VP Sales & Marketing, EMEA & Global Accounts, RFS

Come and visit RFS on our booth E03C, Hall 3

RĂ©mi Deniel, Sales Director for Africa, RFS
Come and visit RFS on our booth E03C, Hall 3
Future requirements must also be considered. The time, cost and risk associated with antenna site evolution can negatively impact an operator’s bottom line because replacing or adding antennas to accommodate different technologies or frequencies delays time-to-market, can increase costs and can lead to difficult negotiations for limited tower space. This is of particular concern for operators in Africa who may want to take advantage of frequencies down to 1800 MHz upon initial deployment, but may eventually want to use 700 MHz or 800 MHz frequencies to achieve specific market objectives.

Multiband Antennas Reduce Tower Weight and Wind Load
RFS believes that one of the best ways to address these challenges is to streamline base station operations with high performance wireless infrastructure products that can be readily adapted to meet any requirement.

RFS multiband antennas are engineered to help operators reduce tower and wind load and the environmental visual impact of multiple antennas on a single tower. These antennas are engineered to optimize base station performance for LTE by reducing the total number of visible antennas from two — and sometimes three or four — to just one. This is achieved by co-locating multiple cross-polarized antennas within a single antenna-sized radome for multiple broadband configurations (790-960MHz / 1710-2700MHz).

For maximum flexibility at a tower site, RFS also offers CompactLine® ultra-low profile microwave antennas. These antennas are engineered to provide high performance in a light, compact, easy-to-deploy and install package. They are available in single- and dual-polarized configurations, include three wideband models, and provide best-in-class radiation patterns that reduce interference and enable easier configuration as part of a complete network deployment.
Innovative Cabling Streamlines Base Station Operations
Network cabling at a tower site is also important. RFS antennas are supported by an innovative, hybrid cabling solution engineered to streamline LTE base station operations.

HYBRIFLEX™ is a hybrid cabling solution that combines optical fiber and DC power for Remote Radio Heads (RRHs) in a single, highly flexible, lightweight aluminum corrugated cable. It is designed specifically for new RRH deployments and base station upgrades. This integrated cabling solution replaces traditional multi-cable approaches, which require additional infrastructure components, long site installation times, and difficult implementation accessories. And it provides the cabling expenditure reductions, ease-of-installation and operational efficiency mobile operators need to evolve their networks while limiting their power consumption and carbon footprint at cellular sites.

Colocation Filters Maximize System Capacity and Performance
Finally, to prevent RF interference caused by multiple antennas on a single tower, RFS offers colocation filters designed to eliminate interference before it degrades network performance.

RFS colocation filters are engineered to maintain appropriate isolation for colocated base stations and remove unwanted carrier frequencies. They provide operators in Africa with flexible site acquisition options for any LTE deployment.

Innovation Delivers Long Term Benefits
Investing in LTE is a major undertaking for any operator. With all deployments, the performance and efficiency of the network infrastructure are the keys to success. Regardless of the combination of antennas, cabling, and filters required, the elements that enable the network have to work properly the first time. Therefore, it is important that operators integrate innovative products that can deliver the quality and capacity to service the most demanding subscriber base.

With the right infrastructure elements, operators in Africa can quickly develop custom-tailored deployment solutions that meet immediate requirements. They can get to market with viable services sooner and rest assured that they will continue to capitalize on the unique benefits LTE offers for years to come.

Visit RFS at AfricaCom 2013. Come and meet them at stand E03c by registering for your free ticket to AfricaCom Here