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Telkom’s cellular play - good news for local industry

The announcement by Telkom recently that it plans to replace almost 300 of its unprofitable copper-based exchanges with wireless 3G and LTE services is good news for the telecommunications industry.


If anything, it’s an attractive offering that will not only improve connectivity speeds for businesses and consumers, reduce lag and high latency of copper-based ADSL, but will also see Telkom rolling out its MSAN network technology to offer 20Mbps and 40Mbps FTTH and VDSL services in major metropolitan areas. Telkom’s remaining exchanges will be maintained in their current state.


The move to 3G and LTE will offer the market a competitively priced product that will provide a better broadband Internet service, with LTE as the preferred last-mile access service specifically for voice.


Testing already conducted by Connection Telecom on Telkom’s LTE has been incredibly promising, with increasingly lower latency being experienced. The other major benefit of taking the LTE service route is that it can be deployed in a matter of days rather than the traditional six to eight week promise from the incumbent.


Another important point to consider is the fact that coverage by Telkom for LTE has improved dramatically in recent months, with the greater Gauteng and Cape Town city centres already covered. First prize, of course, would be a wider roll-out of fibre and LTE for backhaul capability.


Fibre has inherently greater capacity than LTE, which means that when a Gigabit fibre connection is installed at a high-density business park, for example, it can be easily distributed within that environment and provide greater connection speeds than anything seen before. If the same exercise is attempted with LTE, one would reach capacity fairly quickly when compared with fibre. However, where access to a remote site is required, then LTE makes better sense.

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Published in Mobile
Thursday, 15 November 2012 09:27

Changes in SA’s private and public sector leadership raises questions

There is no doubt that leadership in both the public and private sector this year has been fraught with upsets, tension and change. Questions have been asked as to the leadership of the country, and whether there is something larger at play under which our country and private sector’s leadership is buckling. Reasons for the changes in leadership both in the public and private sector may be varied and complex, pre-determined or arranged, political or economic.


In the mining sector, a faction of changes in leadership has been brought on, with various platinum mining executives announcing their departure from the sector, as well as senior executives announcing the axing of staff and management in order to save costs. Aquarius Platinum CEO, Stuart Murray, for example, was the third chief executive to buckle under the economic pressure caused by the uproar in the sector, especially in the face of the continual pressure of issues to deal with such as labour, the Government, safety stoppages and rising costs.


We recently also saw Pinky Moholi, Telkom’s group CEO, resigning, along with board director Neo Phakama Dongwana, after heading up the parastatal for the last 18 months. Moholi’s resignation follows that of Lazarus Zim, who announced he would step down as chairman last month.  Currently it seems there are eight vacancies at senior management level at Telkom. Interestingly, no other Telkom CEO, other than Sizwe Nxasana, stayed for the duration of the contract.


In South Africa the changing of the guard occurs many times due to the natural ‘retirement’ age being reached as well as appointment contracts coming to an end.  This is what happened, for example, when Pieter Uys stepped down in March 2012 after two decades at Vodacom and was replaced by Shameel Joosub as Group CEO.


Others leave because of promotions to different positions or sectors.  In Government, for example, the recent appointment of Minister Naledi Pandor to the home affairs portfolio resulted in the deputy minister Derek Hanekom being promoted to full minister at the Department of Science and Technology (DST).  Minister Pandor’s move, however, was in turn as a result of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma taking up the post of Chairwoman of the AU Commission.


Similarly, in April, in the private sector, Gert Schoonbee was appointed as managing director of T-Systems because the former MD, Mardia van der Walt-Korsten, was asked to move into the higher ranks in Africa because of her exceptional leadership.


While these may be part of natural processes, other leadership changes occur when the leaders are alleged to be involved in activities untoward to the organisation he or she belongs to. Julius Malema, for example, was replaced as president of the ANC Youth League due to his controversial utterances against Jacob Zuma, and bringing the ANC into disrepute.  In 2008, the somewhat controversial recalling of Thabo Mbeki by the ANC resulted in Jacob Zuma being elected as president of the ANC, and the country, because of the electoral processes of a political party.


In sport, whether in rugby, soccer or cricket, we have seen changes in leadership at different levels in South Africa, from a coaching level to CEOs.  Again, with questions raised, responses went from a lack of competence to unethical behaviour to end of contracts.


There are also a number of categories one can create for leadership changes – some more regular and prevalent than others.  There are the ‘job-hoppers’ moving from one position to another position, mostly exchanging one CEO or executive position for another.  I am sometimes of the opinion that the reason for such rapid changes is to ‘leave before they discover my incompetence.’  Much of the blame for people getting away with this is that too many companies are desperate for the ‘next affirmative action’ person and therefore do not do such a thorough screening.  I wonder if this could perhaps be a sign of Mamphela Ramphele’s ‘lack of maturity’ observation.


I have also wondered how many leadership positions changed hands because of persons wanting to get back to South Africa, a specific province or city.  Friends, family and colleagues often assist with the creation of leadership possibilities in companies and government. 


Almost all the areas of our lives are impacted upon by people in leadership positions. Interestingly, we do not always recognise effective leadership, but we always know when it is absent. There is no doubt that leadership in South Africa is changing, and so it is worthwhile remembering Heifetz and Linsky’s quote from Leadership on the Line, “In times of rapid change, leaders pretend they know what the answers are, leading people into a systemic dynamic where no one is asking the right questions and playing by outdated rules.”

Published in Leadership
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 09:25

Cloud is reliant on the data centre

Cloud is reliant on the data centre

It is often said that central to cloud computing is the notion of location independence. You don't need to know where the infrastructure supporting the cloud sits, and you don't care. As long as the cloud delivers computing and storage capacity to the end user as well as access to application software and databases, all within an expectation of a high degree of reliability and redundancy, the end user no longer has to think about the data centre.

Following the ITWEB Cloud & Virtualisation Conference held in Johannesburg in July, it was obvious to me that too little time is spent thinking about the back end infrastructure when it comes to cloud. Cloud offers the virtual delivery of data centre components: virtual servers and storage and virtual networking. The decision to house your cloud services operation, or actual cloud within a data centre should involve consideration of connectivity and down time, and the ability to match capacity with the requirement of the cloud.

In many respects, the concept of cloud and that of data centre colocation are alike in their cost saving benefits to the organisation. Accessing business applications through the internet reduces IT expenditure and resource costs in the same manner as outsourcing your data centre requirements. The cost of designing and building a data centre is one saving, but the benefits of vendor neutrality in a data centre and having access to numerous connections out of the environment is in most cases not possible for most in-house data centres.

Key to cloud offerings is connectivity. Connectivity to international providers like Seacom and WACS, mobile operators; Cell C, Vodacom and MTN, terrestrial networks including Telkom and Broadband Infraco and fibre infrastructure provider, Dark Fibre Africa will ensure cloud providers can reach their clients and that the client in turn has choice. In a June 2012 article, the International Working Group on Cloud Computing Resiliency (IWGCR) were quoted saying that a total of 568 hours of downtime at 13 well-known cloud services since 2007 had an economic impact of more than $71.7 million dollars. Cloud reliability is not covered enough, and specifically not in reference to moving core applications into the cloud.

Outcomes from the ITWEB Cloud & Virtualisation Conference included the fact that cloud is now a mature technology. Reports stated that it is no longer about whether companies need cloud services or not, but rather about what to deploy into the cloud first. I would say that companies need to first ask who will provide the support and infrastructure behind your cloud or cloud services, and what is the connectivity available to such infrastructure to ensure limited down time?

Published in Storage & Data Centres
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