Wednesday, August 19, 2015

IPv6 unlocks new Internet possibilities

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the current iteration of the Internet Protocol and designed as replacement for IPv4. The updated version also offers several functionality enhancements for those who have switched to the new protocol.

IPv4 was first defined in 1981, and utilised a 32-bit address identifier. The newer IPv6 addresses are 128-bits in length, vastly enlarging the size of the usable address space. IPv4 Internet addresses are quickly becoming exhausted. By contrast, IPv6 offers a staggering quantity of usable addresses, and are unlikely to reach exhaustion in the foreseeable future.

Despite the many advantages offered by IPv6, uptake around the world has been relatively slow. To accelerate its deployment in Africa, groundbreaking terrestrial network service provider Workonline Communications is offering 100 Mbps of free IPv6 transit to qualifying AfriNIC Local Internet Registry members. AfriNIC is the regional Internet registry for Africa that administers Internet number resources, including IPv4 and IPv6 address space.

The latest version of the Internet Protocol features vastly expanded address space to provide for the needs of the rapidly growing number of Internet-connected services around the world. Through Workonline Communications we hope to facilitate skills development and improve operational knowledge of the new protocol within the African service provider community by providing zero-cost interconnection for African networks with the global IPv6 Internet.

IPv6 facilitates interconnectivity for the proliferating number of connected devices and appliances from smartphones to automobiles, enabling the continued growth of the “Internet of Things”, made up of truly connected homes, businesses, communities and commercial centres.

Managed effectively, IPv6 allows the reduction of the amount of information stored on network devices to route packets to their destinations. Smaller routing information bases increase efficiencies and performance, and improve the overall costs of operating provider networks.

Network configuration is also simplified under IPv6. Through stateless auto-configuration, a host can generate its own IP address, reducing the need for manual input from network administrators.

IPv6 further enables a host of new and valuable Internet services by eliminating the need for address sharing technologies such as Network Address Translation and re-establishing the end-to-end connectivity principle envisaged by the original architects of the Internet. This makes peer-to-peer networks much easier to create and maintain and enhances other IP services such as VoIP.

Because of the numerous benefits associated with IPv6, along with the limited useful lifespan of IPv4, industry professionals around the world are working with network owners of all kinds to improve adoption rates. This offer of free transit is our way of supporting the ongoing efforts of the community at large to assist with this transition. Workonline Communications’ IPv6 offer is available at the Teraco data centre facilities in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How the NSP industry will impact the provision of Internet Access into Africa

From the recent South African SONA and Budget Speech 2015, it is clear that the development of the country’s ICT sector has become a focus area for South African government.
Amongst others, the decision was made to invest ZAR 1,1 billion in terms of broadband connectivity to schools and government buildings. Through this investment the government is clearly indicating the importance of access to information (through access to the internet) for the development of our education system, as well as the efficiency that online processes will bring to both government and related institutions. I am a firm believer that the delivery of good quality, reliable, high-speed Internet access to South African schools, both in urban and rural areas, will be of benefit to the economy and the level of education in the country as a whole.
Keeping this in mind, it is important to note how the NSP industry will impact on the provision of Internet access to the end users – ISPs offering Wi-Fi services and users of these Wi-Fi networks.
In the near future I foresee a huge proliferation in the provision of Wi-Fi networks and in fibre capacity within many metropolitan areas in the country. While there is currently saturation in the provision of both under-sea cables and national long distance bandwidth in the country, the consumer is not reaping the benefits of this owing to the low density of metropolitan fibre networks (although this is changing rapidly) and incumbents fighting to maintain historic levels of revenue. This being said, the economic question around connecting lower densely populated South African metropolitan areas remains a challenge that needs to be addressed and solutions developed and facilitated by key industry players in partnership with the South African government.
In the last year, the cost of bandwidth has reduced to the point where the revenue spent by advertisers per view is enough to cover the cost of a browsing session on the network – which goes as far as assisting in cross-financing the cost of laying fibre in metropolitan areas.
In the next two years, we are bound to see a proliferation in available access to open Wi-Fi networks, which allow consumers to browse for a certain amount of time for free.  Additionally, as fibre is laid in the country’s metropolitan areas, affordable access to the Internet through these networks will become a reality for the average consumer.
While rural areas are probably those most in need of access to the Internet, these areas present challenges of their own in this regard. Although the population in these areas can be extremely dense, the size of the economy and the amount those in these areas are able (or willing) to pay for use of the Internet is reduced compared to other densely populated metropolitan areas in the country. This means the ROI on the cost of digging and laying fibre cables makes business plans tricky to rationalise. It is imperative that all the relevant industry players work together with the government to address these challenges and come up with viable solutions.
Access to information via the Internet is especially important in an emerging market such as many countries in Africa, as it facilitates for a better quality of education and even for increased entrepreneurship (through broadened access to entrepreneurial education) – in turn assisting in the fight against unemployment and poverty. A survey carried out by Dalberg in 2013 found that the rapid reduction in cost of devices, increasingly affordable bandwidth and development of local content are indications of a positive trend towards leveraging technology to support educational outcomes.
In this regard, it is important to note that while the Internet has high potential for delivering positive benefits in terms of education, its full potential can only be reached with sustained investment in broadband infrastructure.  It is important that those in the ICT, NSP and ISP sectors realise that they can play an important role in the empowerment of marginalised groups.
The recent focus by government on the development of the South African broader ICT sector and the roll out of access to the Internet is certainly encouraging, and it is important for this to be realised, especially in areas where these kinds of initiatives have not been implemented before.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Workonline appoints senior solutions architect

Pan-African provider of terrestrial communication services Workonline Communications welcomes Tom Salmon to the team. Salmon will be working out of the Johannesburg head office, but his reach will extend beyond South Africa across the Workonline Communications pan-African network. With over 12 years’ experience in the broadcast industry, Tom brings with him his expertise in solutions architecture to head up the organisation’s upcoming initiatives in the media and broadcast sectors.

Salmon has a wealth of experience having worked at the top of a well-respected broadcasting company, working across IP and broadcast convergence, initially in satellite and microwave transmission of live television signals, and later driving industry innovation with the design, installation and maintenance of various solutions underpinned by the convergence of terrestrial telecommunications and network broadcast services.

More recently, Salmon was responsible for introducing global telecoms leader; Level 3 Communications’ Vyvx video network to South Africa, as well as designing and implementing the extension of their network into the broadcast industry, now extensively used across local events.

“The significant technology shift to terrestrial communications led to me becoming increasingly involved in transmission over networks and then on to the convergence of the technologies that could support the industry,” says Salmon.

His keen interest in telecommunications networking solutions, and his knowledge and experience of the industry has established him as a respected leader in the field of terrestrial telecommunications and network broadcast services convergence.

“With our growth into this ground breaking new sector, we were excited to have someone of Tom’s calibre on board to spearhead it. We are looking forward to the year ahead and the innovation and modernisation we plan to bring to the media and broadcast sectors,” says Edward Lawrence, Director of Business Development at Workonline Communications.