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Defining African communications
February 2017, Cyber Security, IT infrastructure

The end of 2016 saw the latest AfricaCom exhibition happening in Cape Town. Hi-Tech Security Solutions was present at the event to witness the vast resources being poured into improving the communications capabilities of the continent, from the growth of fibre, satellite and a host of other options. Below are a few of the companies we met.

One of the companies at the event was Liquid Telecom, which is focusing on fibre communications – it was recently given the go-ahead to acquire Neotel. The company has a fibre network into numerous African countries, offering communications services to businesses with interests in the region. Its goal is to cover the continent and then expand its service offerings in different countries, such as it is doing with Neotel.

Liquid Telecom focuses on under-served countries where it can take the lead and develop a good business – such as its activities in the DRC, for example.

It’s the insides that count

Qualcomm is a company that has been in the technology space for many years. As far as communications in Africa is concerned, the company is focused on 4G and the eventual migration to 5G technologies. It not only provides the communications solutions in partnership with companies such as Ericsson, but the two have developed 4G solutions that cover a smaller area but offer more bandwidth, which would be appropriate for business parks or safe/smart city projects and even Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. The ability to manage these cells efficiently to ensure optimal resource utilisation is also a focus area.

Looking ahead, Qualcomm provides the internal components of many mobile devices today, and is working with the global brands (such as smartphone manufacturers, for example) to create home and business solutions as well as ‘next-generation’ products such as wireless chargers and facilitating the faster charging of devices.

The company also demonstrated augmented reality and virtual reality solutions that its technology enables. These technologies, once they become more affordable to the consumer, will change the way we interact with data of all sorts, enhancing and expanding our world dramatically.

The end of cables?

Two wireless networking companies Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to were also focusing on Africa and its lack of physical infrastructure, working to make communications solutions available to all without the need for cables.

Nick Watson, VP of EMEA, Ruckus Wireless, says the company has focused on making wireless Internet access easier and available over a wider area than ever before. As an example, he notes that a safe/smart city will save significant costs if it is run over a Wi-Fi mesh rather than LTE or 5G. Ruckus makes it possible to create such a mesh of access points, with only one point linked to a fibre or microwave connection for access to the rest of the world (if required), that deliver the performance required – whether it’s free Wi-Fi in a city or video surveillance over wireless.

He noted that an efficient wireless network is not simply a factor of having a large bandwidth capacity, but depends on the design and products used to deliver the required performance. This would include the management software required to, for example, reroute traffic to avoid bottlenecks.

As always, when it comes to any communications and especially wireless, security is very important and Ruckus includes access authentication in its management of wireless systems.

Radwin was also at the event. It used the occasion to launch its latest Jet Air wireless communications solution for the residential market. The Jet Air PtMP series includes a base station that delivers 250 Mbps (or up to 750 Mbps) and is built on Radwin’s bi-directional Beamforming technology which has been adopted by tier-1 carriers worldwide. Jet Air enables service providers to deliver bandwidth-demanding services such as TV streaming, gaming and online applications for consumers without having to install cables.

As part of the new offering, the company is releasing two new subscriber units (SUs) that provide up to 100 Mbps: SU AIR for residential users and SU PRO for hybrid enterprise and residential segments. The new IP67 SUs support up to 256 QAM and are powered by the WINTouch application tool that automates installation and alignment to significantly shorten the installation process. A TurboGain slide-on antenna that doubles the service range is available with the new SUs.

Digital security

Gemalto, a digital security company, was also on the floor talking about its various security solutions for the finance, government and telco industries, as well as specific mobile security solutions. The company’s Neil Cosser is based in South Africa and operates throughout Africa. He noted that Gemalto offers solutions that secure enterprise data centres down to individual products such as mobile phones.

Cosser’s focus is on spreading the word on Gemalto’s encryption and authentication solutions, which have been adopted in a variety of organisations worldwide, and in Africa. It also offers secure appliances that only allow authorised users to access and decrypt data on the system – a form of encryption in a box. He says these devices are designed for performance and offer 100 000 encryption/decryption operations per second and are therefore enterprise ready.

Cosser finds African organisations are more aware than ever when it comes to security and are more willing to engage in discussions on the topic to find solutions pertinent to their needs. South African organisations are taking a hard look at data security this year to deal with PoPI, King IV and the new PCI DSS v3.

In the consumer space, Gemalto recently commissioned a study of over 1300 adult smartphone users across six markets, including South Africa, asking people about their mobile behaviour and security expectations.

The study showed that consumers are spending more time with their devices than ever before, over three hours a day on their smartphones and 87% of this time will be spent using apps. South African consumers tapping into mobile banking are also increasing, with 65.1% of them using their phones to access their bank accounts. “These figures demonstrate the increasing importance of mobile device security,” says Sherry Zameer, senior vice president for Africa at Gemalto.

Convenience and speed are also very important, valued by just under half (48%) of respondents. “This shows that while security is vital, people expect a frictionless experience. Industries and those in government designing apps for their own users should take note of this and ensure their software is lean, runs quickly, but is also fundamentally secure,” commented Zameer.


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