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A new space race is on to bring the internet to the whole world

By Thas Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas

The race is on to get billions of people connected to the internet via a global network of satellites. Europe’s Airbus announced this week that it is to design and build up to 900 satellites for the privately owned OneWeb Ltd, which includes Richard Branson as a board member.

A statement from OneWeb said the plan was to begin launches in 2018 to bring “affordable internet access for everyone” by providing approximately 10 terabits per second of low-latency, high-speed broadband.

That estimate of 10 terabits per second may be misleading, though. The broadband access rates experienced by customers are more likely to be in the range of 2 to 50 megabits per second (Mb/s).

It is an ambitious move and follows reports that the entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is seeking US government approval of a network of 4,000 satellites to provide similar internet access.

Accessing the internet via satellite is nothing new. Our own NBN Co plans to launch a satellite this September to help bring people in regional areas to its high-speed network.

But what makes OneWeb and SpaceX’s ventures interesting is their plan to connect people anywhere on the planet, similar to Google’s plan revealed last year.

Facebook’s internet.org is another project that aims to make it easier for more people anywhere to connect to the internet.

A truly world wide web

Only about 40% of the world’s population currently has access to the internet and annual growth has been slowing from from 10.5% in 2013 to 8% in 2013 and 7.9% last year.

Any further growth requires cost-effective access such as a global satellite network. With the mass production of micro-satellites, building such a pervasive broadband internet powered by a constellation of satellites opens up many possibilities.

It makes business sense for large internet companies such as Facebook and Google to increase access in the developing world. Having benefited from the huge uptake of internet connectivity among developed countries, these companies see an as-yet-untapped market opportunity among those who do not currently have internet access.

If other large technology companies hungry for users want to increase affordable internet access, then governments should take advantage of these opportunities. Connecting the unconnected to the internet has many positive advantages for the community.

The internet supports development by transforming a younger generation’s ability to acquire knowledge and skills and contribute productively to national growth. It can also help an ageing population to remain active and access cost-effective health care.

Connectivity is transforming transport, manufacturing, logistics and environment management. All forms of government can achieve greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness through their citizens being online and connected.

Access to digital connectivity is essential in the networked society and it is imperative that there is equitable and universal access throughout the world.

Access needs to be affordable

The Alliance for Affordable Internet has long highlighted the need to increase access by making the internet affordable to a greater percentage of the global population.

Its latest Affordability Report says only 5% of the population of the world’s 49 most underdeveloped countries are online. But for the two billion people living on less than US$2 per day, basic broadband access can exceed 40% of their monthly income.

The low income of many regions does not create the necessary demand to drive investment in affordable internet access options. This leaves these communities in a vicious cycle, which is widening the gap between the connected and non-connected.

A global satellite network may be one solution to providing such access.

But how will it work?

Delivering broadband over such a network faces significant challenges in design, deployment and operation of such a global infrastructure. It must also make sure it’s affordable for those from economically disadvantaged or remotely located regions.

A large constellation of satellites requires agile and cost-effective backhaul technology to provide interconnections between the satellites to form an extension to the internet. Backhaul refers to the links or network required between satellites and the internet to provide customers with internet access.

This can be achieved with laser beams or microwave beams operating at millimetre-wave frequencies. They will also require self-aligning systems to pin-point other satellites and maintain links despite fluctuations in their relative positions.

Alternatively, the satellites could form the necessary backhaul by connecting to ground stations suitably connected close to major internet gateways. Either way, satellite networks also need ground stations and internet gateways, which adds to the cost and the complexity of deploying and managing the network.

With a large constellation of satellites, we can expect a portion of satellites to be dysfunctional at times. The operators need to factor that into the operation and also account for potential impacts and risks of losing satellites. That is why the OneWeb/Airbus deal is for 900 satellites but a plan to launch only 700.

The current cost of satellite-based broadband access may only be within the reach of those living in rural communities of developed countries and for emergency communications. The key question remains whether operators can reduce the cost further by leveraging these early markets to deliver affordable access to the remaining two billion people earning US$2 a day.

The world needs connectivity and it is now needed in places where it has been nearly impossible. Micro-satellites could offer real potential that needs to be explored and may fuel a space race once more among the internet companies.

  • Thas Ampalavanapillai Nirmalathas is Director – Melbourne Networked Society Institute, Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Co-Founder/Academic Director – Melbourne Accelerator Program at University of Melbourne
  • This article was originally published on The Conversation
  • Image source:  Shutterstock/Tatiana Shepeleva
  • Email TechFinancials.co.za at editor@techfinancials.co.za

A cybersecurity survival guide for small businesses

By Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET

Perhaps the most important single thing that small businesses need to know about cyber threats right now is that cyber criminals are actively targeting smaller firms. This can be hard to imagine or accept. After all, the security breaches we hear about on the news involve big brand names, like Target, Home Depot, Sony Pictures, and Anthem.

The fact is, many breaches of smaller firms simply go unreported. There are many  business owners who are still wondering what on earth cyber criminals could want with their company’s computer systems and the data they handle. There are several answers to this.

For a start, many small businesses have personal information about customers and employees that data thieves can sell on the black market.

And although your small business might not have huge bankable profits at the end of the year, depending on your line of work you may handle a lot of money (for example, deposits and payments from customers that are not immediately spent on raw materials).

But perhaps the easiest way to picture the current reality is something called the “small business cyber crime sweet spot”.

Small businesses generally have more assets worth looting than consumers (whether it is bank funds, personal identity data, or intellectual property in digital format). Furthermore, small businesses generally have less maturity than large enterprises when it comes to cybersecurity.

Simply put, small businesses often have a lot to lose, but a lot less protection in place than larger firms. Naturally, that combination is very appealing to some sectors of the cybercrime industry.

While cybersecurity can be intimidating, a methodical approach to addressing cybersecurity can be very effective in reducing your risk profile.eset700x350

ESET security experts offer advice on what precautions small businesses should be taking to protect themselves and keep vital data from falling into the wrong hands.The small business cybersecurity survival guide lays out an “ABC” approach that goes like this:

  • Assess your assets, risks, resources – Know what you need to protect, understand the threats, and identify resources.
  • Build your policy – Spell out your organisation’s approach to security as policy, and ensure leadership prioritizes security.
  • Choose your controls – Decide what controls and tools are most appropriate to enforce your security policies.
  • Deploy controls – Put controls in place.
  • Educate employees, execs, vendors – Gain security buy-in from the full team and let folks know: cybersecurity is everybody’s responsibility.

Further assess, audit, test – Stay on top of security trends, conduct tests of your security, and make sure new projects are included in policy.

As you can see, getting a handle on cybersecurity is a multi-stage process, and this process is ongoing: at stage F you go back to A.

This is the only way to keep up with emerging threats and the many ways in which your growth as a small company changes your exposure to cyber risks.

For example, cybersecurity risk changes as you go from running the company as a one-person operation, to maybe a few trusted co-founders, to an employer of people you never met before they applied for a job with you (and when you reach the point where an employee leaves your organisation, the right security policies become especially important).

Vodacom employee BEE scheme converts in 2019

By Ujuh

The employee chapter in Vodacom’s R7.5bn black economic empowerment (BEE) scheme will be converted into tradable YeboYethu shares in 2019 following a delayed pay day.

The conversion news is carried in the 2014/15 annual report. The annual report says Vodacom employee empowerment trust’s initial seven-year maturity period ends in August 2015.

“The units will be converted into YeboYethu shares in March 2019.”

The scheme’s pay day had to be postponed due stubbornly high debt. There was some commotion from the Vodacom ranks when the news of the postponement of the initial maturity date was made last year.

Vodacom said “Following this date (conversion date), we will aim to facilitate the sale of these shares to qualifying members of the South African public through the online YeboYethu trading platform, which was launched for black South Africans in February 2014.”

The report also declared that the allocation of shares to employees has been closed because all available shares under the R7.5bn YeboYethu BEE scheme have been allocated.

Vodacom explained that in July 2008, YeboYethu acquired 3.44% of Vodacom South Africa in our R7.5 billion BBBEE transaction.

“All permanent South African employees were able to participate in the Trust. Of the units available to the Trust, 75% was allocated to employees on 1 September 2008. The remaining 25% was set aside for future employees on a sliding scale over the next five years. “On 1 September 2014, the last of the available units were allocated to employees.”

Vodacom noted that the total allocation of the employee units is weighted 70/30 in favour of black employees.

The employees’ chapter of the deal acquired 45% of the R7.5bn deal and the balance went to strategic partners and the black public. Recently, Vodacom’s enterprise development initiative, The Innovator Trust, has been acquiring YeboYethu shares from the black public.

Email TechFinancials.co.za at: editor@techfinancials.co.za

REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy S6

“Great equipment to keep you connected in the digital world”

I’ve been using the new Samsung Galaxy S6 for about two weeks and I am convinced that it is a great piece of equipment to keep one connected in the digital space.

In short, Samsung finally has a premium smartphone to take its main rivals head-on.

However, I feel that the South Korean manufacturer has been influenced by iPhone when it comes to the design of the Samsung Galaxy S6.

That said, the Samsung Galaxy S6 has a dazzling design. I love it.

I also fell in love with the Gorilla Glass 4, which came in Black Sapphire for the Galaxy S6 that I was reviewing, that provides a beautifully crafted glass body. This enabled the phone to produce a unique visual texture as it reflects natural light.

So far I have accidentally dropped the phone twice, but it survived intact.

The Galaxy S6 comes with the F1.9 lenses and high resolution sensors on both front (5MP) and rear (16MP) cameras provide the most superior image quality in a smartphone, even in the dark.

I was impressed by both the front and the rear camera, which takes fast, quality, vivid, superior and beautiful images.

The “Quick Launch” feature was a plus as it provided me with a fast and direct access to the camera from any screen in just seconds. It also boasts features like virtual shot, fast and slow motion, which are likely to be a hit with users that like taking quality images while on the go.

The screen resolution is just out of this world.

Furthermore, I was amazed by the wider selfie features on the phone, which generate vivid and quality images.

This is a huge plus for Galaxy S6 as most South Africans love to spend their time taking images and sharing them with friends and families on social media platforms. This will be a powerful draw card for potential customers.

I must confess, the more I used the Galaxy S6 the more I felt that my Samsung Galaxy S5 was out-dated. Besides it is less expensive with underlying chromed plastic construction.

The Galaxy S6 is faster and the battery life lasted longer than I expected. I was completely taken in by the wireless charging.

The devices work with any wireless pad available in the market. It also sports incredibly fast wired charging, 1.5 times faster than the Galaxy S5, providing about four hours of usage after only 10 minutes of charging.

Samsung has created an outstanding smartphone with a careful design finished in high quality materials.

It is also great that the Galaxy S6 comes with the upgraded Samsung KNOX, end-to-end secure mobile platform, offering defence-grade features for real-time protection from potential malicious attacks.

This also comes with a Find My Mobile app for securing lost devices and protects personal information through a number of services, including the all new remotely controlled Reactivation Lock.

The handset has a 5.1inch Quad HD Super AMOLED screen that offers the highest pixel display.

The phone comes with the world’s first 14nm mobile processor with 64-bit platform, new LPDDR4 memory system and UFS 2.0 flash memory that provides higher performance and enhance memory speed with lower power consumption.

The call quality on the Galaxy S6 is very good.

Like the Galaxy S5, the phone also comes with a download booster feature that allows the device to download large files (over 30MB in size) faster using a Wi-Fi connection and mobile data connection simultaneously.

It also has S Health 4.0 feature, an upgraded health app, Quick Connect, Private Mode, S Finder, S Voice and Sound Alive+.

It also include Google Mobile services and apps such as Chrome, Drive, Google, Google+, Google Settings, Hangouts, Maps, Play Books, Play Games, Play Newsstand, Play Movie & TV, Play Music, Play Store, Voice Search, YouTube.

The phone also includes Microsoft’s OneDrive 115GB for two years and OneNote apps preinstalled.

However, I was disappointed that the phone doesn’t have a micro SD slot and removable battery.

That said, the Galaxy S6 is on par with high-end rivals such as iPhone.

All in all, I actually like the design of the Galaxy S6 with its beautifully crafted glass body.

Aces

  • smart design
  • crafted glass body
  • best screen experience
  • great processor
  • Find My Mobile app for securing lost devices
  • light, fast, brilliant camera, amazing screen
  • wireless charging, fingerprint scanner
  • Great ‘wide selfie’ feature

Cons

  • no removable battery
  • no Micro SD slot

The Dell Venue 11 Pro Tablet Review

By Gugu Lourie

For the past few weeks I have been privileged to use the Dell Venue 11 Pro tablet.

The sexy device provides a flexible way to switch from a tablet and a laptop – it works as a compromise between a tablet and a desktop PC.

This enables users to enjoy its versatile tablet experience.

The tablet, priced at R15 540, comes with a slim detachable keyboard cover that turns this sleek machine into a powerful notebook suitable for business people.

But be warned, the Dell Venue 11 Pro is heavy. It is too large to use with one hand for long.

However, apart from its impressive 10.8 inch screen, the advantage the Dell Venue tablet has is its multiple ports. It has more ports than its rivals.

I was also impressed by the fact that I was able to install Photoshop and FTP on the Dell Venue. Uploading TechFinancials.co.za was a breeze.

The Dell Venue is a great device for users who want to enjoy the functions of a laptop and a tablet at the same time.

The tablet’s battery life is very good – it lasts for 12 hours.

I was also impressed with the Dell Venue speakers. The speakers provide quality audio for listening to music or watching videos on YouTube.

The two cameras on the back and front of the tablet allow users to take quality images as well as capture videos in full HD.

Dell Venue is incredibly fast and is fantastic and it looks very nice.

It is an excellent Windows tablet that will never let you down.

Cons

  • Little heavy and thick
  • Relatively dim screen;
  • microSD Card slot requires paperclip

Pros

  • Sleek modern design/Versatile design
  • Battery life
  • Multiple viewing angles allow for comfortable hands-on usage
  • Easy access to tablet ports
  • Decent processor
  • Great, slim keyboard cover
  • Screen quality, full HD resolution

Mix Telematics bosses’ pay falls in 2015

Mix Telematics president and CEO Stefan Joselowitz’ total compensation was R8.1 million in 2013, dropping by R2.4 million from the previous year, according to the vehicle tracking company’s integrated annual report.

The total remuneration consist of a R5.5 million salary and allowances, plus R2.6 million

performance bonus.

Megan Pydigadu, who is the chief financial officer and a member of the board of directors since 2010, also saw her total remuneration drop to R3.4 million in 2015 from R5.5 million in 2014.

Charles Tasker, the chief operating officer, saw his total remuneration being cut by R1.79 million to R4.9 million from R6.7 million.

Other executives included in the 2015 remuneration report were Riëtte Botha, executive vice president: special projects, with total remuneration of R3.1 million versus R3.7 million in 2014; Howard Scott, executive vice president: strategy and acquisitions paid R4.2 million; Brendan Horan, executive vice president/managing director Mix Africa received R3.5 million; Gert Pretorius, executive vice president: business systems paid R3.6 million; and Catherine Lewis, executive vice president: technology/managing director CSO was paid R3.1 million.

Thousands of South African customers rely on Mix Telematics’ stolen-vehicle recovery service, Matrix Vehicle Tracking.

The remuneration committee reviews bonuses at the half-year and at year-end, and determines the level of bonus based on performance criteria set at the start of the performance period. The criteria include targets relating to subscriber growth, subscription revenue growth, adjusted EBITDA targets and divisional operating profit growth and certain discretionary elements.

Mix Telematics grew its subscription revenue 17% to R998m in the year 2015, with the number of vehicles covered up 14% to 512 000. The company also ended the fiscal year with a bigger cash pile of R945m up fromR876m in the previous year. It also posted a 20% adjusted EBITDA margin and generated free cash flow of nearly R90 million in 2015 financial year.

Mix Telematics develops its fleet management solutions using a SaaS model in South Africa, where it takes advantage of savings on costs of hiring software engineers. In Europe and the US these professionals cost more.

Mix Telematics is currently trading under cautionary stating that the company’s board is investigating strategic alternatives for the global firm.

The company, which has a market value of R3 billion, has seen its shares climbed 35.7% in the past 90 days.

Vodacom speaks on BEE versus spectrum allocation

By Ujuh

The telecommunication sector is facing a great deal of uncertainty over the future direction of broad based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) rules for the ICT sector.

This is reflected in statements made by the largest mobile phone network operator in the country, Vodacom.

The uncertainty comes amidst the introduction of news and tougher BBBEE codes of good practice which kicked in at the beginning of May and threatens to cause massive BBBEE downgrades.

Corporations in the telecoms space are worried because the new direction of BBBEE rules will come to impact on the process of spectrum allocation. Some analysts have argued that some corporations will have to do follow up BBBEE deals to pass the empowerment test in additional spectrum allocation.

Peter Moyo, Vodacom Chairman
Peter Moyo, Vodacom Chairman

In his 2014/15 annual report, Vodacom chairperson Peter Moyo tackles both the spectrum and BBBEE issues.

He says “the delay in allocating additional spectrum is becoming a serious constraint to our growth strategies.” He added that “The key policy frameworks that will affect the allocation of additional spectrum in South Africa are still being finalised. The Electronic Communications Act currently prescribes 30% direct Black Economic Empowerment (‘BEE’) ownership as the prequalification criterion for spectrum or licensing applications.”

“Recently published spectrum regulations indicate that pre-qualification criteria are either 30% BEE ownership or Level 4 or higher BBBEE status. However, until the process of harmonisation has been completed between the Department of Trade and Industry’s revised BBBEE Codes and the ICT Sector Charter, it is unclear what the exact requirements will be and what the implications are for Vodacom in obtaining licences for additional spectrum.”

Back to spectrum Moyo added that the delay in allocating additional spectrum is “hampering our ability to continue meeting the rising demand for data services and to roll out LTE/4G optimally.

“Additional spectrum would also allow us to alleviate the current strain on voice services due to the interim measure of re-farming existing spectrum to support data services. As such, the delay is impeding the advance towards the South African Government’s 2020 goal of broadband for all as part of the National Development Plan.”

Vodacom’s Innovator Trust is buying YeboYethu shares

By Ujuh

Vodacom has positioned its enterprise development programme, the Innovator Trust, as a buyer of its black economic empowerment (BEE) shares called Yebo Yethu.

This is reflected in the 2014/15 annual report where Vodacom declares that the Innovator Trust acquired more than 540 000 YeboYethu. This, says Vodacom, has come to advance its BBBEE credentials

The group said “The Innovator Trust utilised the loan funding obtained from Vodacom to acquire YeboYethu shares from the black public. As a

result, the Group reclassified R322 million from equity to liability in terms of IFRS 2: Share-based payments.”

The Vodacom YeboYethu empowewrment scheme was established in 2008 and allowed black people to purchase Vodacom shares at a discount. These shares were listed on an over the counter platform in January last year allowing initial investors to cash out. The Innovation Trust has been a buyer. Initial investors who entered the scheme in 2008 paid in R25 per share. The shares were trading at R69.70 yesterday (16/06/2015) having touched a high of R76.50.

Vodacom said the Trust was supporting 18 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) via a two-year business training programme.

The group explained that “We established the Innovator Trust in 2014 with a loan facility of R750 million over five years at a lower than prime interest rate.

“This funding is used to equip black entrepreneurs in the ICT sector with the necessary business skills to work with the corporate sector.”

Vodacom said the Trust’s mandate is two-fold. Firstly it is positioned to “acquire YeboYethu shares and use the dividend yield to empower black-owned and black women-owned SMEs in the ICT sector.”

Secondly the Trust is positioned to “provide business training to these SMEs.”

This piece was first published in ujuh.co.za whose publishers can be reached at news@ujuh.co.za

Email TechFinancials.co.za at: editor@techfinancials.co.za

Vodacom boss paid R11m in 2015

Vodacom boss Shameel Joosub was paid close to R11 million for the year ended-March 2015, after the country’s biggest mobile phone operator paid more than R13.5 billion to equity shareholders and debt funders, and grew subscriber base by 7.2% to 61.6 million.

Joosub guaranteed salary rose 5% to R7.3 million in 2015 compared with R6.95 million in 2014. His R10.9 million total remuneration included a R3.7 million bonus, according to the operators’

2015 integrated annual report.

While Ivan Dittich, Vodacom’s chief financial officer was paid a guaranteed salary of R4.7 million, showing a 4.3% increase versus R4.6 million in 2014. His total remuneration was R6.2 million with a R1.5 million bonus.

The Vodacom executives helped the company paid R11 billion to shareholders and increasing active data customers by 15.9% to 26.5 million and M2M SIMs increasing 18.5% to 1.8 million.

“The total shareholder return Vodacom has delivered, since listing in 2009, of 261.0% is a mark of the prudent approach we take to balancing sustained business growth with attractive returns, and the effective allocation of capital this requires,” said Vodacom chairman Peter Moyo.

Vodacom, which is valued at more than R billion, has extended 3G coverage to 96% of the South African population by the close of the financial year, and has continued to drive voice and data coverage in its international operations, including in remote areas.

The company is expanding its networks introducing LTE/4G and enhancing its voice services through a R13.3 billion investment.

“The quality and reach of our networks gives us an important commercial advantage,” Joosub said. “Our accelerated capex programme is aimed at entrenching our network leadership and making sure we give our customers the best network experience, and our renewed focus on customer care will challenge us to keep our promise of providing the best service.”

Vodacom’s investment in the reach, quality and efficiency of its networks, which are its most important competitive advantages, has been in the order of R70 billion over the last 20 years. Adjusted for the time value of money, this equates to a staggering R104 billion.

“We have already started to see the benefits of our accelerated capital investment programme in the fourth quarter, where data monetisation and efficiency improved with data revenue in South Africa increasing 31.0% and data traffic growing 47.5%. This was supported by the doubling of the number of LTE/4G sites to 2 600 and increasing 3G sites by 21.4% to 8 802 sites,” said Dittrich.

In 1993, Vodacom was awarded a licence to operate a GSM cellular network in South Africa and in 1996 was the first operator in the world to launch a prepaid service.

The company has operations in South Africa, Tanzania, the DRC, Mozambique and Lesotho, and also offer business managed services to enterprises in over 40 countries across Africa.

In the year to end-March 2015, Vodacom revenue rose 2.1% and excluding the impact of a 50% cut in Mobile Termination Rates in South Africa, group revenue increased 4.8%.

The number of smartphones active on the Vodacom network in South Africa increased by 28.4% to 9.3 million, which equates to only 30% penetration.

“The level of smartphone usage in our International operations is even lower, so there is still significant untapped growth potential. On top of that, the average amount of data used per smartphone is growing rapidly. In South Africa, average usage grew 37.9% to 342MB/month,” Joosub said. “In short, we’re convinced that the investment we’re putting into our network including both new base stations and extensive fibre backhaul is exactly the right thing to do and lays the foundation for continued growth.”