New research from Ookla shows that MTN is South Africa’s fastest mobile network by some margin, followed by Vodacom and Telkom.
MTN achieved a “Speed Score” of 63.52 in the third quarter of 2021, compared to Vodacom in second place with 42.93. Telkom at 27.56 and Cell C at 21.91 brought up the rear.
The scores were calculated using end-user devices with “modern chipsets” capable of measuring a network’s full capabilities, Ookla, which owns the popular Speedtest.net service, said in a statement.
By Jon Porter for The Verge
Huawei’s networking equipment is to be phased out of the UK’s 5G networks, the government has announced. Telecoms operators will not be allowed to buy new 5G telecoms equipment from the Chinese firm from January next year, and they will have seven years to remove its existing technology from their 5G infrastructure at an expected cost of £2 billion. The announcement follows a new report about Huawei’s role in the UK’s national infrastructure from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre.
The decision marks a U-turn from the government’s previous position, announced in January, which allowed Huawei’s equipment to be used in the country’s 5G infrastructure, with certain limitations. Under that position, Huawei would be limited to a 35 percent market share, and its equipment couldn’t be used in core parts of the network or geographically sensitive locations. Now, however, its equipment will be completely removed from the country’s 5G networks.
The UK’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden warned that the decision “will delay our rollout of 5G.” As part of the announcement, the government said that it is also advising full fiber broadband operators to transition away from buying Huawei’s equipment.
In recent months, the British government has seen mounting pressure, both domestically and internationally, to phase out the use of Huawei’s equipment entirely. That pressure has been driven by concern from security experts that Huawei’s equipment poses a national security risk by allowing Beijing to spy on Western countries. Huawei has strenuously denied these allegations.
International pressure has mainly come from the US. Huawei has been on the country’s “entity list” since May 2019, meaning US companies cannot sell technology to the company. However, in May this year, The New York Times reported the US toughened its stance with the announcement of new sanctions against Huawei. Under the new measures, which are due to go into effect in September, Huawei and its suppliers, like chip manufacturer TSMC, cannot use American tech to design or produce Huawei’s products. At the time, US officials characterised the move as “closing a loophole” through which Huawei could effectively have previously used American technology.
These new measures could have a big impact on the products Huawei is able to produce, which critics argue could make its equipment less safe to use. The restrictions “will force the company to use untrusted technology that could increase the risk to the UK,” according to a security report that leaked earlier this month.
For example, Huawei’s own HiSilicon chipsets could be impacted by the measures. BBC News reports that the semiconductor industry relies on electronic design automation (EDA) software to automate the process of designing modern chips like Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G processor. However, the sanctions mean that this software can no longer be used in the design or production of Huawei’s chips since the major EDA developers have ties to the US. It makes it difficult for Huawei to produce its own modern top-of-the-line processors, according to BBC News, pushing it towards third-party chips that, it’s argued, could be harder for UK cybersecurity officials to vet.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also facing pressure from inside his own party. The government suffered the biggest defeat of its current term back in March, when BBC News reports 38 Conservative MPs voted against the government in favor of an amendment calling for an end to the use of Huawei equipment in the country’s 5G networks by 2023. Increasing numbers of Conservative MPs claim that the equipment poses a national security risk, potentially allowing Beijing to spy on the UK, according to the Financial Times. Although the government won the vote, the incident put pressure on Johnson to take a tougher stance.
Responding to the news, a spokesperson from Huawei called the decision “disappointing” and said that the company is “confident” the new US sanctions wouldn’t affect “the resilience or security of the products we supply to the UK.” It claimed that they were driven by US trade policy rather than security and urged the British government to reconsider its decision.
News of a possible ban has proved unpopular with telecom firms, many of which have already started using Huawei’s equipment to build out their 5G networks. In comments later published in The Guardian, BT chief executive Philip Jansen told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that it would be “impossible” to remove Huawei entirely from the country’s telecoms infrastructure in the next decade and that it would take five to seven years to remove it from the 5G network. Jansen warned that forcing the removal of Huawei’s equipment too quickly could create outages and security risks of its own.
By Natasha Odendaal for Creamer Media
Telecommunications group Vodacom South Africa plans to accelerate its network spend over the next two months.
Over R500-million has been set aside to add network capacity and increase network resilience during South Africa’s lockdown period and to help cope with any possible load-shedding.
This will include accelerating the installation of smart energy management solutions and supplementary network capacity.
“Vodacom is doing everything possible to ensure that we maintain our network service quality during this unprecedented time, with a notable increase in traffic already under way,” says Vodacom Group CTO Andries Delport.
“We are monitoring all traffic patterns daily and prioritising key network upgrades to add capacity and maintain the quality of services delivered to our customers where required,” he continued.
Vodacom is experiencing sustained peak traffic patterns for almost the entire day as South Africans are dependent on the network to stay in touch, work from home and keep entertained.
Prior to the lockdown, traffic typically peaked during certain hours of the day.
Vodacom expects network traffic to increase even further as customers connect for longer after it implemented price cuts of up to 40% on its 30-day data bundles and launched a range of free essential services available through its zero-rated ConnectU platform on 1 April, Delport added.
Vodacom also welcomed the temporary allocation of currently unused spectrum to help operators cope with the increased traffic demand.
Vodacom has applied to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa for temporary spectrum and is now awaiting the evaluation of the application.
“We are hopeful that we will be able to gain temporary access to spectrum to enable additional capacity to be added in the quickest and most cost-effective manner as traffic increases further.”
By James de Villiers for Business Insider SA
SA’s two largest cellular networks warn that network connection might be lost if load shedding continues.
Batteries take up to 18 hours to recharge, and if electricity is repeatedly disrupted, it may result in network downtime.
Cellular network connectivity might soon be disrupted if load shedding continues or worsens, South Africa’s two largest network providers said.
Eskom implemented stage four load shedding for the first time in history on Monday morning, after seven generating units tripped, leaving up to 20% of South Africa without electricity at a time. Load shedding (stage 3) continued on Tuesday and into Wednesday.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN South Africa’s executive for corporate affairs, said the operational impact will first be felt where the frequency of the load shedding exceeded the capacity of the back-up batteries.
She said their batteries generally have a capacity for six to 12 hours and require roughly 12-18 hours to recharge.
“Where consecutive load shedding took place, batteries were unable to fully recharge, resulting in reduced back-up times,” O’Sullivan told Business Insider South Africa.
She said MTN spent more than R100 million in the past year dealing with acts of theft and vandalism, and had to deploy security teams to protect the equipment.
“These crimes tend to spike during load shedding when the lack of power sees substations being vandalised for copper wire which then further exacerbates the power supply problem.”
Vodacom said their clients will not be able to access any services when backup power at their towers becomes depleted.
It said when the power is restored, customers will be able to catch up on missed calls and messages which would not have come through.
“It is, however, worth noting that when compared with our total network traffic, the recent impact on Vodacom’s network has been limited due to our back-up power facilities,” a Vodacom spokesperson said.
MTN’s O’Sullivan said the uncertainty surrounding load shedding and the duration thereof, particularly, puts additional strain on their network.
She said the duration and frequency of load shedding compromised their batteries which increases operational costs.
“We want our customers to be able to continue communicating and working, despite the electricity interruptions and we have operations teams working 24 hours a day to mitigate the impact on our customers, as far as we possibly can,” O’Sullivan said.