Pick n Pay in in-store trial of bitcoin payments

In what its backers are calling “potentially a world first for a major grocery retailer”, shoppers were for a “limited time” able to pay for their groceries using bitcoin at a Pick n Pay retail store in Cape Town.

In a statement posted on its website, Cape Town-based specialist software payments development house Electrum, said customers at Pick n Pay’s campus store at its head office were able to use the bitcoin cryptocurrency to purchase groceries and services.

“The checkout process is as simple as scanning a QR code using a bitcoin wallet app on the customer’s smartphone,” the statement said. See demonstration video from Electrum below.
The checkout process is as simple as scanning a QR code using a bitcoin wallet app on the customer’s smartphoneIt quoted the retailer’s information systems executive Jason Peisl as saying that although bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “still relatively new payment concepts”, Pick n Pay has been able to “effectively demonstrate how we are able to accept such alternative payments”.

Pick n Pay did not say when or even if it planned to expand the pilot to other stores. However, Pick n Pay deputy CEO Richard van Rensburg has subsequently told Business Day that the retailer doesn’t expect to begin accepting bitcoin in the near term. He said the trial has since ended.
“We are unlikely to roll out the solution until the payments industry and regulatory authorities have established a framework for managing the risks associated with cryptocurrencies,” Van Rensburg is quoted as having said. “We have proved to ourselves, though, that it is technically possible to roll out a solution very quickly.”
Electrum provided the cloud-based enterprise payments platform used for the transactions, while the bitcoin infrastructure for the project was provided by Luno, a bitcoin company active in Southeast Asia and Africa, and with an office in Cape Town.

According to Electrum’s website, major major retailers and financial institutions use the company’s technology to accept payments, process loyalty transactions and provide value-added services. Click this link to see some of its customers including two out of Africa’s top three retailers.

By Duncan Mcleod for TechCentral 

Google goes down

Google scrambled to fix an issue which caused its search engine, YouTube, Gmail and Drive to crash on Tuesday night.

The tech giant posted updates to say issues on each of its products have been resolved on the G Suite Status Dashboard.

“We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better,” the company said as an update to each of the affected products.

Gmail, YouTube, Drive, Google Maps and other services were reported to have experienced issues around the world.

South Africans also experienced problems, with 176 issues reported on the local DownDetector from 18:00 on Tuesday evening.

Other DownDetectors from around the world reported issues from around the same time.

Google said all services have since been restored, but had not indicated what had caused the problem in the first place.

By Kyle Venktess for Fin24

Top cybersecurity tips for small businesses

Small businesses and self-employed people are big targets for hackers, and the financial implications can be crippling. Gone are the days of thinking “It’ll never happen to us.” A total of 61% of all data breaches this year occurred in businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.
Not only have hacks increased in frequency, but the impact on SMEs is getting much bigger.

But where do you begin? Many SMEs feel that being as secure as a big business is impossible. Corporations have large budgets, chief security officers and entire teams dedicated to cybersecurity. This perception stems from the impression that hacks are vastly complicated, and rely on a tireless horde of highly skilled attackers. Most hacks aren’t like that. The majority depend on poor passwords and a lack of awareness of what a hacker actually needs to compromise your systems — a simple phishing email or a leaked password and they’re in. It’s that simple.

Educating yourself and your staff is the only solution. Hackers always look for soft targets, so start with the basics.

1. Get a strong password

A total of 80% of hacking-related breaches use either stolen passwords and/or weak or guessable passwords. Getting a strong password is the bare minimum. What’s more, it’s easier than you think. A lot of people don’t know that you can use spaces in your passwords, for example: “horse mug table” is much a much better password than “Horse123.”

2. Then make your password unique

Having a single strong password doesn’t count for much if that password then gets leaked. We’ve seen massive, trusted companies like LinkedIn and Yahoo leak millions of passwords over the last few years, which opens the door to wide-ranging cyber attacks. Password managers like LastPass and OnePassword help you generate and keep track of unique and strong passwords.

3. Know what to look out for with phishing

Hackers are constantly sending “phishing” emails, trying to get you to click on their website so that they can install malware or convince you to give them your password. Understanding what a hacker is trying to do and what to look out for is key. Poor syntax, incorrect spelling, or email addresses and links that include a lot of full stops (for example, amazon.getcode.tickets.phishingattack.com ) are all key warning signs to look out for.

4. Understand the information you’re already giving away

Phishing attacks rely on the amount of information we share about ourselves online. Famously the hackers behind the celebrity iCloud leak in 2014 used information they’d gained from public posts to guess the answers to user’s secret questions. If your secret question is “The city I was born in” and you post that information on Facebook, then hackers have an easy way into your account.

5. Pay attention to Web page URLs

When you see “http” in a web page URL that means your communication with that page is unencrypted. Any communication could be easily read by a hacker waiting on that page; “http” is a warning sign to look out for if you ever think you might have stumbled onto a phishing or generally suspect website. If you’re ever entering sensitive information like credit card numbers or personal details, make sure the website has “https” in the website url. That way you’re more secure.

6. Update your software

Software is updated for a reason. Usually companies like Microsoft or Apple will discover a vulnerability that might let hackers in, fix it, then offer an update. Always take them up on it. We saw with the WanaCry attack earlier this year what happens when organizations don’t install patches (updates bringing computer systems to the most up-to-date version) and security updates. Unpatched vulnerabilities offer gaps into your systems that hackers use to install malware and ransomware, or to just gain control of your systems.

7. Encrypt everything

Should a breach happen, you want to make sure whatever information hackers get their hands on is, at the very least, difficult for them to understand. Encrypting your hard drives and databases with a modern algorithm like AES256 is a key defensive tool to protect your data in the event of a breach. It’s quick and easy to do. For more info you can check out this post by FreeCodeCamp to do it in under an hour.

Knowledge is the key to cybersecurity, but it’s important to think about the underlying structure of your business and the way it handles data more broadly. Organization-wide controls and data-protection policies help define sound technological defense, and ensure you know how to respond in the event of a breach. Just remember that industry standards like an ISO27001 certification and SOCII are beneficial, but only when combined with education and good user behavior.

By Sam Nixon for CIO Today

The way that cryptocurrencies have been implemented – with blockchain technology – is absolutely not a viable consumer product, says South African entrepreneur Hannes van Rensburg.

Van Rensburg, who sold his payments platform Fundamo to Visa for $110 million (R1.4 billion) in 2011, was speaking at StartupGrind Cape Town on Thursday evening, reports Ventureburn.

He said that cryptocurrrencies that use the blockchain won’t see the same kind of adoption as credit or debit cards because of the impracticality of settling payments on the blockchain.

“I think there are a lot of things that could happen in the back. I think there’s a lot of things that could happen around settlement of transactions and so forth, but it is a fallacy. I know people are going to shoot me, but I am just a straight shooter,” said Van Rensburg.

One of van Rensburg’s biggest sticking points is the way in which cryptocurrency transactions take place – also arguably one of their biggest selling points.

“If I do a transaction in Bitcoin it means that before it is actually concluded with the text in the distributed ledger, 50% plus one of the participants in this ecosystem have to acknowledge that they have written it into the ledger,” he said

“Now just consider if you were to run it as a global currency where, before you walk out of the shop having bought my packet of chips for a dollar, half the population has to acknowledge that I bought a packet of chips. It isn’t going to work in that environment.”

Van Rensburg said that he still believed that blockchain was an important technology – just not one that is consumer-driven.

Good for business but not for consumers

Van Rensburg’s viewpoint is not a unique one, with many financial experts around the world voicing their concern about the commercial applications of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Regulatory uncertainty is a big hurdle, especially in the financial-services industry. Legal frameworks, globally, will have to change to adapt to the growing use of the new technology, said a former former US Reserve official speaking to the Wall Street Journal.

There are also issues of cybersecurity; despite backers of blockchains claiming that they are secure by design, the technology hasn’t been adopted widely enough yet for it to be seriously tested.

Source: BusinessTech

Digital transformation: why should you care?

Digital transformation is more than a mere buzzword. Modern businesses must evolve as the digital age continues to overtake lives, both personally and professionally. To maintain the capability to leverage intricate market changes, businesses must undergo an in-depth metamorphosis.

This digital transformation must bring the business and its organisational activities in line with the fourth industrial revolution and all of the opportunities it holds. According to iScoop’s online guide to digital business transformation, digital transformation brings business processes, competencies and models up-to-date, to empower the organisation to adjust to changes and embrace the “opportunities of a mix of digital technologies and their accelerating impact across society in a strategic and prioritised way, with present and future shifts in mind.” This profound transformation requires an awareness of the latest innovations across a variety of key processes and industry sectors – but it also requires a real interaction with new technology, delivering an understanding that can come only from personal experience.

This is the theme of the Infor Next 2017 conference, to be held at Montecasino, Fourways, on the 21st of September. With key sessions led by Infor global experts, digital transformation, its importance, and its relevance in South Africa will be unpacked, offering leading-edge insights. “In this glorious world of innovation and constant development, true transformation is required to ensure the enterprise workplace remains competitive. This dovetails with the understanding of how to maximise value in the cloud,” says Tarik Taman, Infor’s Vice President and General Manager: Sales for India, Middle East and Africa (IMEA).

“Attend Infor Next Johannesburg to experience how innovative, beautiful applications are being designed for progress, transforming the way people work.” By employing user-centric development, organisations are empowered to dive deeper into solutions to solve high-value, real-world challenges and expand overall proficiency. “By honing the techniques needed to aid organisation-wide digital transformation, key education, strategic direction, and the latest innovations in enterprise systems are leveraged,” adds Taman.

“At Infor Next 2017, we’ll bring to life both innovation and technology to address specific industry needs by extending existing solutions to improve productivity and lower costs.”

Topics under discussion at the event include a regional overview, a glimpse into Infor’s future plans, and a comprehensive view of the value of Infor CloudSuite, the pivotal elements to talent transformation and the power of Enterprise Asset Management (EAM). From social collaboration at work to cloud in the public sector, healthcare, manufacturing and hospitality, expert knowledge will be shared, driving greater digital transformation in every industry. The event will also highlight the Infor Education Alliance Programme (EAP), which delivers next-generation tools for future leaders, and works with local universities in South Africa. Participants in the programme get access to specialised software packages, training materials, and customised learning experiences, using groundbreaking technology that is already transforming work for more than 90 000 organisations worldwide.

“Succeeding in business is tougher than ever before. The Alliance Programme helps talented students and professionals get an edge on the competition,” confirms Taman. With these industry-specific business tools, proficiency is developed, offering students and professionals at every level the critical skills that will set them apart in the job market. “Software solutions should have the necessary capabilities built in, not bolted on. Contemporary solutions deliver lasting return on investment, long-term sustainability, and the flexibility to adapt and grow,” concludes Jane Thomson, Managing Director at Softworx, an Infor partner and event sponsor. “These are the cornerstones of effective digital transformation.”

iPhone X both copies and innovates

As soon as you see the iPhone X up close, you’ll realise that it’s nothing like any of the previous models that Apple has released during the past decade.

But you might notice striking similarities with some of the sleek smartphones that Samsung, Google and others have been churning out during the past year or two.

Like its rivals, Apple has finally gotten around to making a phone with an edge-to-edge display, a nod to consumers’ desire for more space to view their photos, watch movies and TV shows, read books and play games.

In that sense, Apple is playing a game of catch-up with the iPhone X – a name that refers to the Roman numeral for “10.” But the device still manages to live up to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ mandate to “think different.”

The iPhone X comes with what appears to be sophisticated facial recognition. On a basic level, that allows its owner to unlock the phone with a quick glance. But it also opens the door for a menagerie of emojis that can be controlled and manipulated with facial expressions and voice.

The phone also provides a spectacular canvas for photos, thanks to a superior camera and a souped-up screen Apple calls a “Super Retina” display.

It also costs almost $1,000, an unprecedented price for a mass market phone.

That price tag means that most Apple lovers will probably stick with the slightly less expensive iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, which will be available Sept. 22 – six weeks before the iPhone X hits the market.

But the iPhone X will probably be a hot commodity among status seekers and affluent consumers. Such buyers won’t flinch at paying an extra $300 to own a phone with attractive but still mostly marginal improvements, based on about 20 minutes The Associated Press spent with the phone in a controlled demo room Tuesday.

One of the best things about the iPhone X: It has a larger screen, but isn’t more cumbersome to carry around. The iPhone X’s edge-to-edge screen measures 5.8 inches diagonally compared to 5.5 inches for the iPhone 7 Plus and now the iPhone 8 Plus. But the iPhone X’s overall dimensions are smaller than the Plus and just slightly larger than the regular models. That’s bound to appeal to people who like large screens but don’t like oversized phones.

On the down side, the iPhone X’s screen isn’t as wide as that of the iPhone 7 Plus or iPhone 8 Plus.

What really makes the iPhone X stand out is its new high-resolution display, coupled with its spiffy cameras. Photos viewed on the iPhone X look amazingly vivid and lifelike, right down to the visible blades of glass at a kid’s soccer game or every crease of a blanket blowing in the wind.

Emojis have become such a popular way of communication in our smartphone-driven culture that the iPhone X’s “animoji” feature could prove popular as well.

This animated feature draws upon the iPhone X’s facial recognition technology and high-end, front-facing camera to enable people to control the expressions on a dozen different type of emojis.

For instance, you can pull up a fox or a rabbit and it will frown or smile in sync with your own expression. The emoji figure will move its mouth when you do; record it and it will speak in your voice. (You can send such videos to friends.)

Facial recognition is also the new convenient way to unlock the iPhone X. No more fingerprint scanner: the expansion of the display meant the loss of the home button, which housed that sensor. Apple says this change will allow iPhone X owners to unlock the device with a quick glance under just about any conditions. (The device also can be unlocked with a numeric passcode if facial recognition fails, as it did for one Apple executive during Tuesday’s presentation.)

But security might still be an issue, particularly if the iPhone X’s facial recognition can be tricked by intruders trying to break into a device designed for big spenders and luxury lovers. Apple says it turned to mask experts to test and improve the feature, though it acknowledges that twins might trick the phone.

Using the iPhone X will also require behavioral changes, such as swiping from the bottom to get the home screen, now that the home button has disappeared. The new phone does add a button on the side to invoke the Siri virtual assistant and Apple Pay.

Source: Associated Press

South Africans rake in Airbnb profits

Airbnb has proved a lifesaver to many South African women hosts, giving an especially welcome financial boost to single mothers, according to latest statistics released by the hotel and guest lodge booking platform.

In the report Across the BRICS: How Airbnb connects the emerging economies, the platform detailed how the service contributed towards GDP in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“South Africa has seen the strongest growth in guest arrivals from BRICS nations at 380%, with explosive year-over-year growth in guests arriving from Brazil, by a factor of nine. South African hosts’ total income earned from BRICS-based guests ranks the highest of the five countries at $1.88m (about R24.3m),” the report read.

“The typical woman host in South Africa earned nearly $2 000 (R25 917.10) last year, more income than earned by the typical women hosts in other countries. More than 60% of women hosts in South Africa are Superhosts – hosts who are specially designated by Airbnb as hosting guests frequently, receiving a high number of five-star reviews, and being exceptionally responsive to guests and committed to reservations with 60% of South African women hosts with children, i.e., single mothers, use (sic) their Airbnb income to help them stay in their homes,” it said.

About 5.3 million Airbnb users from developing nations generated more than $467m over the past year, according to latest statistics released by the app.

The year-on-year growth rate of intra-BRICS  guest arrivals was reported at 134%, according to the study.

With interest in travel and tourism on the rise, reaching 10% of global GDP in 2017, Airbnb allows BRICS countries to benefit in their share of the income, said the report.

Airbnb is an online marketplace and hospitality service that helps people lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms with 97% of the listing price going directly to hosts.

By Kyle Venktess for Fin24

Is tech just for boys?

The gender stereotypes of parents and teachers play a large role in putting young girls off careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) careers, a study has found.

The study found 53 per cent of girls in secondary school drop Stem subjects due to pressure from parents. Two thirds of girls surveyed (65 per cent) said their parents and teachers were the main influence over what subjects and career choices they made.

One third of parents and teachers (29 per cent) polled said they view Stem subjects and careers “as more closely fitting boys’ brains, personalities and hobbies”.

When discussing attitudes to science and tech careers, 82 per cent of girls said they wanted a career where they could help people, and did not see how a future in a Stem field could achieve that.

The research found the more extra-curricular Stem events or school day trips girls attended, the more likely they were to take at least two Stem subjects at Leaving Cert level such as science subjects or technical graphics. Out of girls who attended three or more Stem events or trips, 30 per cent chose to do two or more science or technology subjects for their Leaving Cert.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the research provided “much-needed insight into the under-representation of girls and women in Stem education and careers”.

He said addressing the lack of women and girls in science, engineering, tech and maths fields was a priority to be addressed.

The research involved 3,000 Irish students, parents and teachers who were questioned earlier this year. The survey was carried out by consulting firm Accenture Ireland and iWish, a Cork-based advocacy group involved in encouraging young girls to enter science and tech fields.

Co-founder of iWish Ruth Buckley said the research “points to the significant role that teachers can play as a gateway to Stem careers”. She said that “giving teachers and girls knowledge, information and access is key, we cannot leave girls’ inclusion to chance, we need to have a consistent and systematic focus on Stem through our education system”.

The report made several recommendations on how to increase the engagement of young girls with Stem careers. These include helping parents educate themselves on the subjects, and providing additional training and information to teachers on Stem careers so they can better inform students about potential opportunities in the field.

Source: www.irishtimes.com

Virtual Teacher platform launched in SA

Vodacom and the Eastern Cape Department of Education have launched ‘Virtual Teacher’, a platform that allows teachers to deliver lessons to multiple remote classes. The move follows Vodacom’s Programme for Mobile Devices introduced in the province earlier this year to promote the use of digital technology in Eastern Cape schools.

Virtual Teacher enables teachers or lecturers to deliver lessons through a range of smart devices, learners can join classes from anywhere and at any time. For the first time in South Africa, the technology can be accessed from any personal device.

The platform is supported by portable hardware which delivers high-quality visuals and sound. It can also accommodate unlimited viewer numbers. The technology enables live interaction with the remote audience through a texting Q & A facility for written responses during the lesson.

Vuyani Jarana, Chief Officer at Vodacom Business, says: “Vodacom is working with the Eastern Cape Department of Education to address some of the challenges facing our education system, particularly in rural and underperforming schools. This is all about bringing innovative technology to those who need it most in order to improve learning outcomes for all education segments in our country. The future of the South African education system is digital and we must embrace the opportunities this offers to leapfrog infrastructural backlogs and legacy issues in our schools.”

In order to improve the matric pass rate in the province, the Eastern Cape Department of Education will use the Virtual Teacher platform to provide extra classes to students at selected districts in the province. Lessons will be delivered remotely by some of the country’s best teachers, with an emphasis on Mathematics, Science and Accounting. Students from various locations will be transported to teaching sites in the Eastern Cape, including Mdantsane, Maluti, Lusikisiki and Mt Frere.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education’s Superintendent General, Themba Kojana, says: “The Eastern Cape Department of Education is promoting interactive virtual teaching and learning in the province, particularly in rural communities. Technology such as the Virtual Teacher platform allows teachers to interact with remote learners to increase their understanding of school subject material, with a goal to improve learning outcomes in the province.”

The Virtual Teacher platform encompasses a camera, microphone and streaming unit which can be streamed from any device. Lessons can be pre-recorded if needed and recorded content can also be downloaded to any device. The platform is easy to use and can be linked to a school website. Content can also be zero rated by Vodacom if required.

By Fundisiwe Maseko for www.itnewsafrica.com

Vumatel to bring uncapped fibre to townships

South African fibre-to-the-home operator Vumatel plans to offer uncapped 100Mbit/s fibre to the home in townships across South Africa — at just R89/month!

In the coming months — by October or November — Vumatel will begin a pilot project in Alexandra, the low-income, high-density township north of Johannesburg, offering uncapped fibre to every home, including informal dwellings, for a price equivalent to a few soft drinks.

By the end of the first quarter of 2018, it will have deployed fibre to 60 000 dwellings in the sprawling township, located east of the Sandton CBD. About 400 000 people live in Alexandra, according to the company’s estimates.

CEO Niel Schoeman said in an exclusive interview with TechCentral on Friday that the company has done the business modelling, and believes it will be a commercial success.

In South Africa we have unique challenges and big inequalities. The telco industry is inadvertently exacerbating these inequalities
If it is, Vumatel plans to roll out fibre to other townships in Gauteng and eventually those in Cape Town and Durban – Diepsloot is likely to follow Alexandra next year, with Soweto and Tembisa also high on the priority list.

What’s the catch? There isn’t one, Schoeman said.

Unlike in the suburbs, however, the fibre will be aerial (strung along poles) rather than trenched, and a contention ratio of 20:1 will apply. This means that if 20 consumers maximise use of their lines at the same time, consumers can expect a minimum speed of 5Mbit/s; in practice, however, it will be much higher than that, he said.

Vumatel, which first broke ground in the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband market three years ago in the leafy Johannesburg suburb of Parkhurst, has rapidly expanded to cover most of the city’s northern suburbs, as well as parts of Cape Town and Durban.

‘Fantastic result’

“Johannesburg is essentially done, and, when you include other fibre operators in to the mix, all the major metro areas will be done by the end of next year,” Schoeman said.

He said it’s a “fantastic result” that within a four-year period, almost all the suburbs in the big cities will have been connected to fibre.

Now the company is turning its attention to the millions of people who live in the townships and other underserviced areas in the big metros. He said there is a solid business case for delivering low-cost fibre access to these areas, and to do so profitably – albeit at a razor-thin profit margin. The new venture has the backing of Vumatel’s investors, which include Investec and Standard Bank, he added.
The Alexandra township in Johannesburg, as seen in Google Earth
In Alexandra, Vumatel has studied how much consumers spend on mobile data each month, and believes there will be a high take-up of uncapped fibre services, with consumers redirecting some of their mobile spend to fixed access, and leaving them with money to spare.

“Clearly, we have only solved part of the problem: building out the affluent suburbs. In South Africa we have unique challenges and big inequalities. The telco industry is inadvertently exacerbating these inequalities. It’s important for people to realise their ambitions. That’s why the ‘data must fall’ campaign is so emotive. It’s really complicated to function in today’s society without real access and an abundance of data.”

We are going to provide uncapped fibre to the home, with the equivalent user experience of what you’d get in the affluent suburbs, at a price of less than 500MB of prepaid mobile data. We think that’s quite cool
For the past six months, Vumatel has been working on a model of how to address the digital divide. “We have finally come to a point where I think we can. This will be transformative.”

Vumatel has spent considerable time on the ground in Alexandra talking to residents to understand their needs and what they’d be prepared to pay. He said Vumatel’s modelling suggests it has a plan that will not only address these needs, but one that also makes commercial sense.

He declined to go into detail about the mechanics of the roll-out, saying this is competitor-sensitive information, but confirmed the fibre will be strung from poles. Each house, including informal dwellings, will get an access box from which they can connect to fibre services.

“We are going to provide uncapped fibre to the home, with the equivalent user experience of what you’d get in the affluent suburbs, at a price of less than 500MB of prepaid mobile data. We think that’s quite cool,” Schoeman said.

He emphasised that the roll-out will not be in any way subsidised. “This is not corporate funding. This is a fundable model… Without giving away too much of our business model, we have a little bit of magic that will make the economics work.”

‘Same opportunity’

He estimated there are between 6m and 10m people living in areas adjacent to its existing FTTH footprint.

“If we prove this model in Alex, and we have other players starting to do this, then all 35m people living in metro areas are reachable by fibre. A child in Greenside and a child in Alex will have the same essential opportunity for access to information.”

Vumatel also intends to erect free public Wi-Fi hotspots in the townships, offering basic Internet services in public areas, with corporate social investment funding from Investec. As in the suburbs, it will offer free 1Gbit/s Internet to schools in the townships, in return for those schools hosting its networking gear.

If it gets the model right, it will present a major threat to the mobile operators, which have exclusively served the township markets – fixed lines are all but non-existent in those areas.

A child in Greenside and a child in Alex will have the same essential opportunity for access to information
Schoeman said the mobile operators’ prepaid average revenue per user, or Arpu, is typically between R60 and R90/month. Per household, it’s probably in the R400 range, he said. “Now suddenly you can get away with just buying a R12 WhatsApp data bundle and consuming your data at home.”

In building fibre in the suburbs, Vumatel typically waits for sufficient interest from residents before deploying infrastructure. It will not do that in the township markets, where it believes take-up will be sufficiently high to justify the roll-out. “We don’t think we need that in this case – we will go in and build it.”

In these new markets, consumers will connect primarily through smartphones, Schoeman said. However, the access to fibre may spur the sales of tablets, computers and other electronic devices.

Unlike in the suburbs, where it works through a network of third-party Internet service providers, Vumatel will provide Internet access itself, at least at first.

“Some ISPs will help us in providing those services, but at the moment we are seeing if we can make it stack and work”, hence the decision to offer Internet access directly itself for now. “We expect uptake to be high. We think it will easily pass what we need it to pass. It is so compelling compared prepaid mobile data.”

Completely uncapped

For R89/month, consumers will get a completely uncapped 100Mbit/s down, 10Mbit/s up connection at a maximum 20x contention ratio. There will be no setup cost, though the Wi-Fi device will not be included. Vumatel wants to encourage router manufacturers to serve the market directly. “There will be a wall box, into which consumers will plug in their router.”

Alexandra will be completed by March. If successful, Vumatel wants to reach 10m more residents in other townships and underserviced areas in the metros 24 months after that.

Consumers in townships have, until now, not experienced uncapped Internet. Schoeman believes it will transform these economies. It will support education, help grow businesses and spur e-commerce, he said. “Maybe spaza shops will offer Amazon-type drop-off lockers. There is so much more that will be able to happen there.”

Can we move society forward? Ultimately, we hope competitors will join us in this market
He admitted that Vumatel’s management is a “little apprehensive because it’s new territory” for the company, but “at a fundamental level in South Africa, we all have these challenges to address”.

“Our success is not just measured in our financial success. Can we move society forward? Ultimately, we hope competitors will join us in this market.”

Vumatel is still working out the billing and subscription mechanisms for the service, but it is likely to be prepaid. “There will be different methods for access,” he said.

The company will continue to deploy fibre in the suburbs, where there is still much work to be done, especially in Durban and Cape Town. He said Vumatel has the capacity to be able to focus on both.

By Duncan Mcleod for TechCentral 

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