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Spectrum Auction. What is that and how does it work?

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Telecommunication companies cannot operate as they please. These companies, like RocketNet, need to receive a license from ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) to operate and use designated frequencies. These frequencies, sold on a spectrum auction, are what enable Vodacom users for example, to connect their registered devices to the Vodacom network. Each network operator will have a designated frequency supplied to them so they can provide services like internet connectivity to their customers.

First, what is spectrum

what is spectrum

Spectrum is radio frequencies utilized by telecommunication, television and radio stations as well as a host of other industries to provide digital services to customers. These frequencies need to be specifically allocated, as each frequency can handle only so much traffic. If too much traffic travels on the same frequency complications will occur.

As there is only a limited amount of traffic bandwidth available for each frequency, ICASA hosts spectrum auctions where frequencies are sold off to the highest bidder. ICASA will provide the highest bidder of a specific frequency with a license to operate with that frequency.

947 and spectrum love you

As an example, the radio station 94.7FM, who loves you, has received a license from ICASA to use and broadcast over the 94.7FM frequency. No other company may broadcast or utilize this frequency other than 94.7FM. It is a criminal offense to use a frequency without the necessary license from ICASA. Even the frequencies used by SAPS are managed by ICASA.

947 loves you
94.7 is a frequency

Not all frequencies require a license from ICASA to be used. ICASA has set aside frequencies that are authorized to be used for free by the general public. For example, when you buy a set of walkie talkies, those walkie talkies utilize a certain frequency, but you do not need to go and bid for that frequency at a spectrum auction because the frequencies they use will not interfere with licensed frequencies.

ICASA manage all spectrum

At the time of writing this blog ICASA is set to hold an auction allowing telecommunication companies to bid for their share of the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum bands. The purchase of these spectrum bands will allow these companies to continue to roll out services including the 5G network. 5G is the fifth generation of mobile communication standards. 5G, according to experts, will allow for internet speeds of up to ten times that of 4G.

icasa
ICASA manage all spectrum

There was some controversy over this recent spectrum auction. E-TV argued that it would be impossible for television broadcasters as well as telecommunication providers to share the same spectrum on 700MHz and 800MHz bands. The Pretoria High Court halted the process of the spectrum auction after hearing the argument. ICASA argued that the spectrum auction is necessary because it will enable network providers to lower data costs, expand the 4G network and roll out the new 5G technology. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Spectrum auctions are not only held in South Africa

Much like South Africa, the United States of America hold similar spectrum auctions for their network providers. In the USA the industry is regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The spectrum auction held this year (2021) by the FCC included over 97 rounds of bidding in what has been the most important auction for telecommunication companies in terms of market dominance and competition.

Spectrum auctions in the USA
Spectrum auctions in the USA

The FCC stated that the spectrum auction generated a massive $81b in revenue from 21 different bidders. Amongst the top bidders were Verizon, who spent a whopping $45b and AT&T who spent $23b. Even though network providers in the USA have already started rolling out 5G networks, they have done so only on low-band frequencies. The latest spectrum auction was held to give bidders access to mid-band spectrum which would be more beneficial to consumers using 5G.

The $81b spent on the FCC spectrum auction more than doubles the amount of money spent on the previous auction.

Spectrum is in high demand

Due to its lightning fast download and upload speeds, 5G has become the next big thing in terms of smart device connectivity, communication and entertainment. With promises that a 4K movie can be downloaded within seconds, customers are eager to receive the next generation network capabilities and the network companies are biting at the bit to get the limited amount of spectrum available.

in high demand
Spectrum is in high demand

Due to the limits on supply of the spectrum, and the limited amount of traffic each spectrum band can handle, these companies are throwing down eye watering amounts of money at spectrum auctions to get what they can. Becuae the more spectrum you have for 5G capability, the more consumers are going to use your network and the more money companies will make on their investment.

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5G. The Evolution Of Speed and Surveillance

5G Speed and Surveillance

One can only begin to imagine the possibilities of 5G network connectivity when one has a more in depth understanding of how network or mobile connectivity has evolved to get to the point where it is. To begin to understand 5G let’s take a dive into the world of cellular network connectivity.

Generation 1

The first generation (1G) of mobile network connectivity was introduced in Japan in 1979 by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) at a whopping sign-up cost of $2000 per user. By today’s monetary equivalent that would set you back around R110 000, and that was only the cost of signing up. Then there was the rental of the phone which was around a present-day value of R16 000 a month.

Now, the value that you got from those exorbitant costs were as basic as it gets. 1G only allowed for voice calls and someone with the correct know how could easily listen in on your call if they wanted to. Even though you were paying the price of a small car there was no data encryption for 1G connectivity.

The Next Generation

2G was the next generation of mobile connectivity. This generation did have the capability of being encrypted. This meant it was much harder for an eavesdropper to listen in on your private calls. Encryption scrambles communication between two devices, meaning an unauthorized third party would not be able to understand what was being said between you and whoever was on the other end of the call.

2G started with encryption before 5g
Encryption Started With 2G

Then Came 3G & 4G

In 2001, 3G came to the forefront of mobile networking technology. With this advancement in technology came the ability to access the internet using mobile phones. 3G got the ball rolling in terms of how powerful smartphones would become in the hands of their users. Not only that, a user’s internet surfing habits and search history could now be recorded by cellular companies as well as government agencies and, it has only gotten worse from there.

4G made way for the use of mobile apps which became an integral part of the smart device user experience. Developers and companies saw the value in the information that apps are able to collect about their users from your location to your favourite flavour of ice-cream.

Apps Advanced Data Collection Capabilities
Apps Advanced Data Collection Capabilities

The Personal Cost of Improved Technology

With each new generation of mobile network connectivity that is released, not only does your internet experience improve, but the effectiveness of companies to capture and document information about you, like the things you like, the places you go, the goods and services you purchase online and even the people you socialize with, improves with it, whether we like it or not.

There is a price to pay when using modern-day technology it seems and that is why some people are hesitant about 5G. Because what is the real cost of adopting something now more powerful than 4G. What is possible with the fifth generation of mobile network connectivity?

5G Superiority

There is no question that 5G is a major breakthrough in terms of cellular and mobile network connectivity. 5G has far superior potential compared to its predecessor. For example, 4G had a download speed of about 150Mbps. 5G is said to have ten times that speed ranging from 1Gbs to 10Gbs.

Latency with 5G connectivity will also be much lower than with 4G connectivity. Latency is the time it takes for your computer to send a signal to a server, or another computer, and then for the server or computer to send that signal back to your computer measured in milliseconds.

5G and Surveillance

Due to its enhanced communication capability and speed, 5G will allow improved performance in terms of surveillance. Many security systems communicate to a server via cellular communication and due to the performance 5G offers, security will be augmented in such a way that allows for instantaneous communication.

In essence what will change is the time delay between the action and response. 5G could allow for faster communication to alert emergency services of a potentially dangerous situation. However, not all surveillance is, or will be ,beneficial to you.

Should We Be Concerned?

Obviously there are concerns about surveillance of your personal device and one should proceed with caution however, the silver lining is that 5G is said to have superior encryption capabilities. Smart devices collect data such as voice commands, location, search preferences and even the way your voice sounds, so that it can identify you who are with more accuracy.

Information such as your location could be used against you in some circumstances. Even though police would need a subpoena to obtain such information, it is not entirely impossible. Police would then be able to put you in a certain place and time should they need to, just by looking at the data records from your smart phone.

5G Will Provide Faster and More Accurate Information
5G Will Provide Faster and More Accurate Information

Nothing is ever really deleted. Your data could be stored on servers for years. In this day and age, to be completely free of being monitored or tracked, you would have to move to the middle of the Amazon forest, and even then, you may not be completely off-grid.

If you think the SAPS would never be able to see your data, think again. There is something called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). So, for example, if the SAPS needed data extracted from your phone, say from Hong Kong, China they could use the MLAT to ask the companies for access to your data stored on their servers. This is the type of surveillance that is making people nervous.

5G and Me

As mentioned, your download speeds will be nothing like you’ve ever experienced before. The rate at which you can communicate with other devices will exponentially increase and so will the amount of information your device is able to share with friends and family.

Connectivity of other smart devices will also improve. For example, we are already seeing the advent of smart phones connecting to cars whereby you are able to switch your car on and warm up the seats (if you that fancy) from anywhere in the world.

More Powerful Connectivity Means More Inter-connectivity
More Powerful Connectivity Means More Inter-connectivity

All these great advancements seem to come with a price. The amount of data that will be available about you will be vastly scaled. It’s not the end of the world though, it just means you need to be more careful about the information that you store on your devices and what permissions you allow apps to have. If this is a real concern for you then our blog posts on how to create a strong password and how to avoid being tracked online will be a good read for you.

History Repeating

People had the exact same worries about 4G as they currently do about 5G. People like to create panic, and history has a tendency of repeating itself so don’t believe everything you read or hear about 5G and how the government will be able to ‘read your mind’ while connected, even if in the Amazon.

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Biggest Tech Companies by Market Capitalisation, Our Top 5

Biggest Tech Companies by Market Capitalisation Our Top 5

There is a good chance that you are reading this article on a device that was designed and developed by one of the world’s biggest tech companies. Even if you are not, you do not have to be a gambler to make a bet that at some point in your life you have used a device, or service, that has been provided by one of these tech companies.

So, what makes this so interesting?

Well, the fact that these multitrillion dollar tech companies which have amassed such huge followings and support, in a relatively short period of time, coupled with massive annual revenue streams, actually started out just like any other company. None of these tech companies grew to be the biggest overnight through massive amounts of investment capital, that came later. Some of them began operating out of a garage at their homes.

We live in an era where technology is the fastest changing and fastest growing sector of our everyday lives. New and groundbreaking technology is developed almost on a daily basis meaning it is almost impossible to keep up with the changes. With technology changing every day and with the loyalty these brands are able to attract and retain from their users, it is no surprise that we see the enormous amount of wealth these companies can generate.

I mean imagine earning R36 000 per second or R2 100 000 per hour like Jeff Bezos does. Bezos makes more money in one second than most people make in an entire month and, sadly, more than some people make in a year. His wealth grew from $130 Billion in 2020 to $200 Billion in 2021.

Our top 5 big tech companies?  

fsxxi.com have compiled a list of the 10 biggest tech companies according to market capitalization. However, we will only look at the 5 biggest tech companies before we go on to unpack a little bit of how these mammoth companies started out.

1. Apple Inc.

Market Cap: $2.169 Trillion Dollars

Annual Revenue: $274 Billion Dollars

An interesting fact about Apple is that in 2019, Apple was ranked as the most valuable company in the world, before being dethroned by Saudi Aramco.

Biggest tech companies Apple Logo on Office Building
Apple Inc. Logo on Office Building

2. Microsoft

Market Cap: $1.611 Trillion Dollars

Annual Revenue: $143 Billion Dollars

Founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft employs a massive workforce, numbering 163 000 employees.

3. Amazon

Market Cap: $1.569 Trillion Dollars

Annual Revenue: $280 Billion Dollars

Amazon is an interesting competitor as it is a hybrid company, dominating multiple industries such as e-commerce, consumer electronics, digital distribution, cloud computing and more recently, AWS which uses artificial intelligence. Now if you thought Microsoft employed a massive workforce, how about a workforce of 798 000 people. This is more than the population of some small countries.

Biggest tech companies Amazon offices Munich
Amazon, Munich

4. Alphabet Inc.

Market Cap: $1.171 Trillion Dollars

Annual Revenue: $161 Billion Dollars

You may not know this but Alphabet Inc. is actually Google. The internet giant officially changed its name in 2015. Alphabet Inc. is the holding company of more than 30 different brands and companies and employs 130 000 people.

5. Tencent

Market Cap: $731 Billion Dollars

Annual Revenue: $55Billion Dollars

Established in 1998 Tencent is one of the largest companies in the gaming industry. They are owners in companies like Epic, who developed the world famous game Fortnite, and Riot, who are the developers behind the game – League of Legends.

Tencent office building
Tencent Building Next To Shenzhen University

Where and when did the biggest tech companies start?

1. Apple Inc.

Apple started in a garage. The company was founded in 1976 in California by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in a garage at Steve Jobs’ residence. In order to raise enough capital to buy components needed to finish the first orders of the Apple 1 computers, Jobs had to sell his Volkswagen van and Wozniak had to sell his Hewlett Packard 65 scientific calculator for $500.

It is interesting to see that a company that now brings in an annual revenue of $274 Billion Dollars once required its founders to sell their most valuable possessions to make ends meet.

2. Microsoft

Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. One of its most popular products, Microsoft Office, first debuted on a Macintosh, built by Apple. Microsoft Office only moved over to windows a year later.

Bill gates, the founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s wealthiest people, made his first billion dollars at the age of 31. Funny enough, in 1997 Microsoft invested $150m into Apple and today does not own a single share.

Microsoft Campus Redmond
Microsoft Campus Redmond

3. Amazon Inc.

Amazon was launched in 1995 by founder Jeff Bezos. Jeff Bezos started Amazon in his garage. I think we are starting to see a trend here. If you want a multi trillion-dollar company, try starting it in your garage. Amazon first started off by selling books online. However, Bezos had a bigger vision to grow what was once a small start up into a major world leading tech company.

Although Bezos has recently retired as Amazon CEO, it is safe to say that his legacy will be around for many years to come. Amazon was set for success from the very beginning. In the first two months of busines they managed to sell books to people in every state in the USA and in over 45 different countries.

4. Alphabet Inc.

When founded, Alphabet Inc. was originally Google. Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford in 1995. Sergey was assigned to show Larry around Stanford University and the two quickly got talking about business ideas. They initially failed to agree on most things they discussed during their first interactions and were only able to make a win/win deal a year later. Before Google got its name Google, Google was originally named Backrub.

Google Offices
Google Offices

5. Tencent

Tencent was founded in 1998 by Pony Ma, Zhang Zhidong, Xu Chenye, Chen Yidan and Zeng Liqing. Located in Shenzhen, China, Tencent was initially funded by venture capitalists. In 2001, South African media company Naspers purchased a 46.5% share in Tencent.

The Tencent messaging platform QQ is a vastly popular platform in the Chinese market. With a user base of over 600 million users, it is easy to see why Tencent is one of the biggest and most valuable tech companies in the world today.

We LOVE tech!

We love tech, and we love the success stories behind the great tech companies we have all been witness to in the world today. More than that, at RocketNet, we love to provide our customers with great internet experiences that exceed their expectations.

If you are not a part of our family yet, why not? Sign up with us now, you won’t be disappointed and who knows, you could be a part of a tech company that will be in the top 5 one day.

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Smart homes in South Africa. The possibilities

Smart homes in South Africa. The possibilities

You are in a rush as you leave your house in an attempt to make your flight on time. You forgot to close the garage door and switch off the lights inside the house, but it is too late to go back home. Simple solution, you open your home automation app to access your smart home on your smartphone, close the garage door and switch off the lights. Technology has done it again! It has made your life simpler and safer which is important in today’s South Africa.

I am continually being surprised as to what we can automate in our homes, converting ‘dumb’ homes into smart homes, even in South Africa. And after reading this article I am sure you will want at least one of these automation gadgets as a feature in your new smart home.

Smart homes in South Africa. The possibilities
You can automate just about anything

What is home automation, really?

Home automation is a convenient way of operating certain elements within your home such as your TV, air conditioner, underfloor heating, doors, washing machines, driers, ovens and much more. All of these elements are operated using a smart device such as your smartphone, laptop or tablet.

The technology behind automation of smart homes allows you to operate your home from anywhere in South Africa, or the world, as long as you have sufficient internet connection. When you begin to equip your home with these types of product marvels it is almost as though your home has graduated with a PHD in home management whilst other homes have only just left school.

Imagine this

To give you a more tangible idea of how smart homes can operate let’s imagine for a minute that you have jetted off from South Africa and are on your dream holiday on a distant, remote island somewhere. There you are, lying on the beach in the hot sun, soaking up the rays and flushing away the stress. Not expecting a call your phone suddenly rings. You need to unlock the front door of your home to let in a family member or friend who is looking after your pets in your absence.

They forgot their key again and are standing outside your house in the pouring rain. Without a moment’s hesitation, and keeping very calm, you simply pull out your smart device, open your smart home app and select “Open Front Door”. Voila, they in, wet but happy and so are your furry friends.

Automated door locks
No more getting caught in the rain

You are able to allow whoever you want to access your home without having to leave a key under the mat or be there in person to unlock the door. There is so much that can be automated in your home and unlocking doors from thousands of kilometers away is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Some cool smart home features available in South Africa

Before we get into the fun stuff, let us take a brief look at how your smart device is able to connect to something like your front door in the first place. There are two types of systems:

  1. Wireless automation systems:

Wireless smart home systems make use of internet connected devices and are often easier and less costly to install. You do need to make sure though that your wifi router can handle the bandwidth needed to connect multiple devices at the same time.

2. Wired automation systems:

Wired smart home systems use hard wiring to connect the system to a central hub within the house, which is then connected to your fibre internet.

A wired system is often more reliable, however, it can be more costly to install. On the bright side, it may be that installing this technology will increase the value of your home. According to Barclay’s Mortgages ‘Digital Homes Report’ the demand for smart homes fitted with this type of technology is on the rise, even in sunny South Africa.

Both wireless and wired fibre internet connections are available from us here at RocketNet. You can check your coverage here and we can hook you up in no time.

Now for the fun features

Besides being able to open locks and switch lights on and off from anywhere in the world, home automation is beneficial in the long run if you are looking to save money. How? By your home automation system learning your patterns of behavior.

Your smart home devices will be able to learn your daily routine and adapt accordingly to any changes in that routine. For example, if you wake up at 6am every morning, your smart home will know at what time and which lights to turn on and when to turn them off again. It will know at what time you will arrive home from work and prepare for your arrival by turning on any outside lights that you might need to be able to see in the dark when trying to find the keyhole at the front door. You see, no more leaving outside lights on the whole day wasting electricity.

smart lights
Smart lights even with different colours

Smart homes make life a bit safer

Your smart home can even tell you when there is motion being detected around your house. If somebody is at your house that shouldn’t be there, then a smart security system can send you a notification to your smartphone. You can then login to the security cameras, in real-time, to see what’s going on.

From saving money with lights being switched off when you forget, to beefing up your security and staying safe you can see how using smart home technology can save you some cash and buy you peace of mind at the same time, which is priceless. These are just two of the many reasons for your home to go ‘smart’.

Remember that personal safety is one thing but digital safety is another. When you set up all your smart home devices in South Africa make sure that you have strong passwords on all of them.

If that’s a bit boring, then check this out

Okay, boring, automated lights and security, that is so 2019. Well, did you ever imagine that you wouldn’t have to cut your own grass anymore? There is such a thing as automated lawnmowers. With its own docking port your smart lawnmower can mow your lawn at the click of a button.

Automated lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners
Smart lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners

Need the house to be vacuumed? Well, your smart vacuum can do its thing whilst you are kicking back watching your favourite Netflix series. You can even feed your pets treats at night while you out on the town.

If that still doesn’t sell the idea of smart homes to you (we don’t earn commission on any of these products by the way) then I don’t know what will.

The smart place to start

If you are looking at getting started with automating your home, your best bet is to go check out Siri and Amazon Alexa. These are two of the most popular virtual assistants that function using AI (artificial intelligence) technology. These devices operate as a hub for all the smart devices you purchase and that are compatible. For example, you can say, “Hey Siri switch off my bedroom lights”, or “Hey Alexa boil the kettle for me”. Unfortunately, you will still need to get up and pour the water into the mug.

Alexa and Siri
Alexa and Siri smart home hub

The future of smart homes and buildings is very interesting, even spanning into smart estates. Soon, homes, cars and buildings will be able to cross communicate with each other opening up another dimension of possibilities.

In winter, your office building will be able to tell your car to start and warm up because you are leaving the office to make your way home in the next five minutes. Your home will know how far away you are from getting back from the office and can begin to run a nice warm bath for you, having received the instruction from your car. Your office will turn off all the lights once everyone, including Elvis, has left the building.

The costs of home automation may look daunting at first, but the end result can be well worth it. It introduces simplicity into a stressful lifestyle. A smart home is a fun home, the only question left to answer is, how smart is smart enough?

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Cryptocurrency, decoding the meaning

Cryptocurrency, decoding the meaning

Cryptocurrency and its meaning have been the talk of the global town for about the last twelve years being featured in newspapers, on radio shows, on TV news and talk shows and even on billboards. Much has been said about the controversial investment opportunity and the immense gain in wealth some people have been able to achieve from it.

From high school teenagers to billion-dollar companies the variety of investors in cryptocurrency is something that definitely goes against the grain of traditional financial investment practices. You could invest in a cryptocurrency right now, without knowing all that much about its meaning and with as little as ten rand. It is that ease of access, low-cost to entry and seemingly high return on investment (ROI) that is driving the craze in cryptocurrency today. Even every-day, excuse us for saying, ‘normal people’, are literally becoming multi-millionaires overnight with little knowledge of how the investment game actually works.

Cryptocurrency, decoding the meaning
Easy access with potentially great returns

A brief history of cryptocurrency

Paying with and transferring money electronically is not as new an invention as you might think. In 1983 cryptographer David Chaum invented a payment system called eCash. Twelve years later another breakthrough in electronic payments was achieved with the invention of DigiCash. DigiCash utilized cryptography in order to make financial transactions safe and confidential. The first time the term cryptocurrency and its meaning surfaced was in 1998 when Wei Dang thought it would be a good idea to invent a payment method that used cryptography and then leveraged its main strength of decentralisation. Decentralisation allows cryptocurrency to exist outside of the control of government and central authorities.

The decentralisation of cryptocurrency

The idea behind decentralisation is that a currency can be used internationally without the need for a major financial institution to back the payments. The origin of cryptocurrency can be boiled down to the need for a new and different way to carry out financial transactions without the use of conventional payment methods.

During the 2008 worldwide financial crisis, many people lost everything they owned and endured strenuous economic hardships. So in 2009 the cryptocurrency ‘Godfather’ Satoshi Nakamoto invented the first cryptocurrency coin and called it, Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies have now been around for more than a decade and have far exceeded expectations of longevity from where it first began.

The decentralisation of cryptocurrency
Bitcoin works on decentralisation

The introduction of Bitcoin to the market

Bitcoin was first introduced to the market back in 2008. It was made known through a white paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” In 2009 it was worth $0. By 2013 you could buy one Bitcoin for $129 and in 2021 that coin would be worth $50 000. If that doesn’t shock you then I’m not sure what will. Wait. Actually this may shock you even more.

A man by the name of Laszlo Hanyecz bought two pizzas for 10 000 Bitcoin. Today, that would be worth $500m or, if you are South African, that is a mind blowing R7,5b!

People, naturally, were skeptical at first of such a new and different form of “money” but, over the years as cryptocurrency has grown in its popularity and become less ‘taboo’ people have started to change their perception of it. Even businesses have become more accepting of cryptocurrency.

Some businesses, like car dealerships in the States, have started accepting certain cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for their cars.

The introduction of Bitcoin to the market
Laszlo spent 10 000 Bitcoin on Pizza

How does cryptocurrency work

Cryptocurrency uses cryptography (which is the art of writing or solving codes) that enables peer to peer payments. There is no need for a financial institution, like a bank, to facilitate the payment process in any way. A user is able to send ‘coins’ to another user using a unique ‘Wallet ID’. That Wallet ID is unique to the user and not accessible by anyone else, not even by the platform on which the Wallet ID is registered. A Wallet is a user’s personal and unique place of storage for a minimum of one currency.

When investing in or buying cryptocurrency you can either buy a whole coin or even a slight fraction of a coin. With as little as R10 you can start your investment journey with cryptocurrency. If you would like to get started, go check out Luno.com, it is a great crypto exchange platform for beginners or even seasoned investors.

As with anything, there can be risks associated with investing in a cryptocurrency. The price of different cryptocurrency coins varies from one coin to the next. You can buy coins that are worth a few cents, to coins which are worth hundreds and even hundreds of thousands of Rands. We recommend doing your own research and if you are unsure consult a financial advisor before making an investment.

How does cryptocurrency work
Cryptocurrency uses cryptography

What is the future of these coins?

Like with most things in life, especially new innovations, there are critics who say Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are a bubble waiting to burst. Many financial institutions and banking heavyweights have discredited Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies saying that it is a rollercoaster about to reach the top of its game before it has nowhere to go but down.

Only time will tell the story of the cryptocurrency journey and whether or not that story will have a happy ending. In the meantime, do your own research, consult a financial advisor, and if cryptocurrency is something that grabs your attention as a sound investment then start small and let the chips, sorry coins, fall where they may.

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Starlink from SpaceX can bridge the digital divide

Starlink from SpaceX can bridge the digital divide

Starlink is on the brink of providing an upgrade to the way the global economy accesses the internet as we know it. With a first of its kind satellite mesh-network system Starlink is set to provide internet to even the most remote parts of the world. A project spearheaded by world renowned tech billionaire and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, Starlink is a breakthrough in internet service access and will connect the world by bridging the digital divide between urban and rural communities.

Starlink is just internet right, so why the big fuss?

Starlink will be the next giant leap in achieving internet coverage on a global scale. The project has ambitious goals of providing users with 10Gbps of download speed and that’s an incredible feat for satellite internet. That means you could potentially download multiple movies, at once, within seconds, and while sitting in a remote location. Currently the download speeds are ranging at about 300Mbps so there is a way to go but, we’re rooting for them.

Won’t internet delivered by satellite be too slow

The Starlink network, besides having a very cool name, also promises to provide users with extremely low latency. This means that customers using the network for online gaming and video streaming will enjoy endless nights of these activities with their friends and family with very few, if any, disruptions caused by lagging. In fact, Elon Musk said at the 2020 Satellite Conference in Washington, DC that “We’re targeting latency below 20 milliseconds, so somebody could play a fast-response video game at a competitive level, like that’s the threshold for the latency.”

Starlink from SpaceX can bridge the digital divide
Speeds could reach up to 10Gbps

How many satellites does it take to deliver internet connection?

Currently, Starlink have managed to launch 1,200 satellites into orbit. At full capacity Starlink says that a total of 12,000 satellites will be orbiting the earth. The company will continue to launch satellites in a phased approach with the goal to have about 8,000 satellites orbiting just 500km above the planet, and the remaining 4,000 orbiting much higher up, at around 1,200km. 120 Starlink satellites are being manufactured every month. They aim to have all systems in place and ready to go by the end of 2021.

The benefits of Starlink internet connection

It’s not only the speed of connection at which the Starlink system will provide internet connectivity but also the access that ‘hard-to-reach-users’ will have no matter their geographic location. The setup, according to Musk, is a two-step approach that can be done in any order, he says “It’s very important that you don’t need a specialist to install it. The goal is that… there’s just two instructions and they can be done in either order: point at sky, plug in”. We can then safely deduce that the other two-step approach is ‘plug in and point at sky’ [LOL].

Rural or urban, first-world or not, Starlink will not discriminate in its service. Whether you’re situated in Los Angeles or a small farming town in the Kalahari, your internet speed will be the same once the system is at its full functioning capability. “Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge. Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable”, reads the Starlink website.

Stralink brings internet to rural areas
Internet in rural areas

Another benefit is that there is no need to lay cables in the hard-to-reach areas which will be costy and far more time consuming. The Starlink service can be activated in an area at the press of a button. However, it is not conducive to highly populated areas due to bandwidth restrictions. So, your current fibre internet service provider will still be your best option if you live in an urban area.

Bridging the digital divide

Starlink will allow schools and businesses in rural areas to have access to internet speeds on par with schools and businesses in urban areas. This is great progress to bridging the digital divide and creates opportunities that were not previously available. The only setback is that the cost is not yet conducive to low-income areas but hopefully, over time, this will become a thing of the past.

Due to the rockets designed by SpaceX, Starlink can launch a multitude of satellites into orbit using the same rocket. With takeoff and landing capabilities, SpaceX rockets can be used over and over again to launch satellites into space with minimal waste and cost in terms of not having to build a rocket for each new launch. Having to build a rocket for each mission would lead to an exorbitantly high cost of operation which would ultimately affect the end user purchase price.

Bridging the digital divide
SpaceX Rockets (not depicted here) can launch more than one satellite

Currently, only fibre internet lines can compete with the rate of download speeds Starlink is aiming to provide. SpaceX have designed the satellites in such a way that they are able to orbit the earth lower than any other internet satellites currently in space. This does not mean however that fibre internet will become obsolete, on the contrary Musk reassures telco companies by saying, “I want to be clear, it’s not like Starlink is some huge threat to telcos. I want to be super clear it is not. In fact, it will be helpful to telcos because Starlink will serve the hardest-to-serve customers that telcos otherwise have trouble doing with landlines or even with… cell towers.”

Cool facts about the satellites

At this point in time Starlink has launched enough satellites to make up 25% to 35% of all satellites in space. With 11 000 more satellites to go, Starlink will undoubtedly be crowned, ‘Space King’. With no signs of slowing down, we could witness history in the making within our lifetime.

The satellites weigh about 259kg and travel at between 7.28km/s and 7.70km/s or 28 080km/h. This is called orbital velocity or, ‘flippen fast’.

When the satellites were first launched, they caused some concerns for astronomers as they were too bright and interfered with scientific observations. SpaceX, to curb this problem, added sunlight blocking visors on top of all the satellites which are called ‘VisorSats’.

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Digital Payments in South Africa and Using them Safely

Digital Payments in South Africa and how to use them safely

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, we are moving closer and closer to becoming cashless societies. The advancement in technology with how we transact and pay for goods and services is rapidly evolving. Digital payments in South Africa and around the world are being adopted rapidly and not many people carry cash around with them anymore. I keep thinking about what that means for the man on the street, but I digress…

Common digital payments currently in South Africa

Today, for most people in First World and Middle-Income Countries, the preferred method of payment is some sort of electronic payment mechanism for convenience, improved user experience and safety reasons.

Companies are adopting new technologies at a rapid rate and are becoming more and more innovative with how they process customer payments. Some of the new forms of digital payments in South Africa include things like QR codes, you know, the funny looking barcode on the bottom of your bill. When making this type of payment you simply whip out your phone, open your payment app, like SnapScan, scan the code and, voila! Payment accepted.

The most common form of digital payment in South Africa that we have become used to is probably your bank card that allows you to simply tap your card on ‘The Machine’. As a word of caution, you should keep your bank cards in a RFID (radio-frequency-identification) safe wallet. This type of wallet protects your card from being randomly scanned through your pants or coat pocket by opportunistic criminals.

Digital Payments in South Africa
Make sure your wallet is RFID safe

Bank cards are becoming a thing of the past

Although for now you need to keep your bank cards safe, they are also rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Banks are now beginning to offer digital cards that you can carry on your smartphone. There will soon no longer be a need to carry your bank cards with you on a night out with the family.

Digital bank cards will be available on your smartphone

Other digital payments in development

1. Contactless payments

The latest global digital payment trends are slowly making their way into South Africa. A contactless payment is almost like tapping your card without needing your card. Huh? You can simply use your phone, or smart watch, to pay for your goods and services. You can load your card details onto your device and when you need to pay you simply wave your phone or watch near the terminal and using NFC (Near Field Communication) your device will successfully make the payment.

This form of technology is still in the early testing days for most banks accepting digital payments in South Africa, but many banks have expressed their interest in adopting these payment options as soon as they are available to better service their clients.

Men, just think, you would only need to carry your phone, car keys, reading glasses, sunglasses, house keys and face mask. Ah yes, one less item to remember before heading out the door.

2. Biometric authentication:

Biometric authentication is a verification method which involves biological and structural characteristics of a person. These verification methods include fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, iris recognition, heartbeat analysis, and vein mapping.

Biometric scanning will really go a long way to curb the massive problem of identity theft in South Africa and make payments efficient and safe. You may have noticed your online banking app asking you to set up biometric identification on your mobile phone.

3. EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa)

Traditionally, bank accounts were recognised by a unique code of numbers that were static. EMV uses codes that are unique for each transaction. The numbers vary from transaction to transaction thereby scrambling the numbers, which drastically improves security. If a hacker cannot get a hold of what a number is before it changes they will find it very difficult to get into your bank account and steal your funds.

4. Smart Speaker Systems

Smart-home systems like Alexa allow you to give voice commands and receive a verbal response to that command. You can give commands like to turn on your favourite music or switch the lights off when you go to bed at night.

It is also possible to order goods and services and make the payments through smart speakers like for an Uber ride. There are still many security and privacy concerns and the adoption has been slow as a result. However tech-companies like Google, Amazon and  Apple are in a race to develop this technology into safe-to-use devices that will make transactions secure and efficient.

Biometric authentication
Biometric authentication, very cool.

What about my other cards, will they go digital?

These are just a few of the current and developing digital payments that will become available in South Africa in the near future. But what about things like my driver’s license, my 50 loyalty cards and my gym card? I need to be able to keep those somewhere too. The good news is that there are trends emerging where these services are also becoming digital in South Africa. Your loyalty cards will be on your smartphone, like the Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths loyalty card. There is no reason why the rest won’t follow suit. What a pleasure!

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Artificial Intelligence. Friend or Foe?

Is artificial intelligence friend or foe?

What we know.

Artificial intelligence, otherwise known as AI, is the ability of computer systems and programmes to carry out tasks that would normally require engagement and execution by human beings.

One thing we know, which may not be common knowledge, is that artificial intelligence will allow computer systems to function as if they were human, yikes! This includes making use of human senses, and as strange as it might seem, this is actually becoming increasingly possible.

AI already exists and is operational all around us. Think of AI as a machine that is self-aware, meaning that the machine can interpret and react to things based on the senses it perceives. Artificial intelligence will also allow computers and machines to think and function for themselves.

I know this may sound like you are living in a sci-fi series on Netflix and that’s because this is becoming more and more of a reality. But don’t panic, the advancement of artificial intelligence is not entirely what you think. AI is not going to be an army of robots from ‘The Terminator’ that are going to walk around and take over humanity. AI takes the form of many different types of technology, not just the form of robots.

Is Artificial Intelligence, Friend or Foe?
AI isn’t out to get us

The different types of artificial intelligence

1. Reactive AI

Reactive artificial intelligence is one of the first types of AI to be invented. Reactive AI has pre-programmed answers to certain inputs.

These machines cannot learn from previous responses and they cannot generate new behaviour based on past experiences. An example of Reactive AI would be when you dial a phone number and there is a pre-recording asking you which department you would like to speak to. Personally, I find those recordings really annoying and would much rather speak to a human.

2. Limited Memory AI

Limited memory artificial intelligence is different to Reactive AI in that it can learn from previous data and apply it to future scenarios. It can be taught to identify scenarios and learn the answers to those scenarios. Systems like Siri and Alexa are examples of limited memory AI. They have pre-programmed responses but they can also learn new things.

Limited Memory AI is currently the most utilized form of AI. Self-driving vehicles such as Elon Musks Tesla cars use Limited Memory AI.

Limited memory AI
Cars like Tesla use Limited Memory AI

AI that is currently under development

1. Theory of Mind AI

This type of artificial intelligence will be able to learn and understand humans. It will be able to identify and differentiate between different types of human behaviour and personality.

2. Self-Aware AI

This is the ultimate form of artificial intelligence. At this stage, AI will be conscious of the fact that it is a computer or machine and may also be aware that it has the capability to outsmart humans but, maybe that’s a blog for another day.

Elon Musk has warned against developing artificial intelligence too fast to a point where AI becomes self-aware. Self-aware AI will have the ability to reason, respond with speech, argue, and ultimately make its own decisions. It will have its own thoughts, emotions and needs, much like a human. The danger is that the AI favours itself over human life and could potentially see humans as a threat to its existence (cue eery music).

Self-aware AI
Self-aware AI

There will be two types of Self-Aware AI:

1. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

This will be AI that is able to function on a level equivalent to humans. This type of AI will be able to communicate with humans on an intellectual level and function completely independently from human intervention.

2. Artificial Superintelligence (ASI)

This is what will be known as the most intelligent entity on earth, super!. Far more intellectually capable than any human. ASI will be able to solve complex problems on its own. AGI will not even come close to how advanced ASI will be.

In conclusion

These advancements in technology create both excitement and uncertainty to humankind and our future. The technological advancements that will come with the progression of AI are probably unimaginable at this point in time.

I am hoping though that this technology will be put to good use, for example, in medical advancements. Imagine an AI system that can diagnose a serious disease within minutes and then develops the best and most effective treatments for that disease.

AI is an incredible concept that could change the trajectory of civilisation for the best, or it could be to the detriment of civilisation. Only time will tell but until then let’s just relax.

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Fibre optic undersea cables. Where, who, how and what?

Fibre optic undersea cables. Where, who, how and what?

By now it should be safe to say that you have definitely heard of fibre. No not the fibre you eat but rather the fibre internet that helps you order something to eat. Well, if you are still unsure about the fibre internet I am referring to, let me start at the beginning, by explaining fibre optic undersea cables.

What are fibre optic undersea cables and where are they?

Fibre optic undersea cables are a very advanced way of transferring data across the world in the ‘blink of an eye‘. These cables consist of extremely small ‘lines’ that transfer data via pulses of light. These lines of fibre optic are made up of extremely thin wires just a bit thicker than a needle. If you had to look at one of these fibre optic cables, it would almost look like a tiny glass or plastic tube. However, due to the sensitivity of such cables, they are often protected and insulated by multiple layers of hard materials such as metal and rubber. This is done to protect the cables from any potential force that may break the fibre optic cable.

There are of course fibre optic cables running under and next to most roads and houses bringing the joy of fibre internet connectivity to users all over the country. But how do those cables connect to the other side of the world? Well, those cables eventually meet stations which are connected to undersea fibre optic cables that run along the coast of Africa. If you are interested in seeing the cables that already exist just click here. This map shows you the world’s entire undersea fibre optic cable network as well as all the cables that are connected to Africa. The cables that run on the floor of the ocean are known as submarine cables.

Fibre optic undersea cables.
Fibre optic cables are laid undersea

There are currently five main submarine cables off the West Coast of South Africa:

1. Equiano Cable:

This cable is owned by Google.

2. West African Cable System (WACS):

This is owned by a multitude of telecommunications companies and spans a total distance of 14,530km. This cable connects 15 countries and starts in South Africa with its end point located in London.

3. SAT3/WASC:

This cable is also owned by numerous companies and spans a total distance of 14 350km. This cable connects South Africa to Portugal and Spain as well as several other African countries.

4. Africa Coast to Europe:

Once again and not surprisingly so, this cable is also owned by multiple companies. This cable runs a lengthy 17,000 km from South Africa to Europe.

5. 2Africa:

The most impressive of all the undersea fibre optic cables is the 2Africa. Owned by many, but most notably Facebook, MTN Group and Vodafone, the 2Africa cable runs a whopping 37,000km along the ocean floor. The cable will be fully operational by 2023. It will connect 23 countries around the world and will offer improved performance as well as cost effectiveness.

Along the East Coast of South Africa there exists an additional three submarine cables:

1. SAFE:

Connecting South Africa to India and Malaysia. The undersea fibre optic cable runs a total length of 13,500km.

2. Melting pot Indian-oceanic Submarine System (METISS):

Connecting South Africa to Mauritius and Reunion. This cable spans a distance of 3 200km.

3. Eastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy):

Botswana Fibre Networks and Telkom South Africa are two of many owners. The cable runs a length of 10,500km.

How and who lays these fibre optic undersea cables?

As you can see, there are many fibre optic undersea cables running along the coast of South Africa. One begins to think, how long does it take to lay these cables and how do they lay cables that are on average 10 000km in length.

Specially modified ships are used to lay the cable. The modern-day ships can lay around 200km of fibre optic cable per day and can carry around 2,000km of cable on board. Optical repeaters are installed along the line to ensure the strength of the data pulse does not diminish over vast distances. The public knowledge as to the exact location of the cables is kept to a minimum as terrorists often like to destroy the cables and hold the companies ransom in return for the cessation of the cable destruction.

The average project cost of laying undersea fibre optic cables is around $100-$500 million (that’s US). This is much more cost effective than using satellites when you compare the rate of data transfer, which is much higher with cable than what a satellite can handle, for the same price.

Video on an undersea cable-laying vessel
How and who lays these fibre optic undersea cables?
Fibre optic cables are laid by specially equipped boats.

Remember the damaged WACS undersea fibre cable?

Early during 2020, South Africa experienced a submarine cable-break off the coast of South Africa. With that came slow fibre internet speeds and frustrated fibre internet clients. Many fibre internet service providers spent a fortune of money buying additional bandwidth to provide their customers with some sort of solution.

However, the speeds were still too slow for the number of users using fibre internet, especially during lockdown. The frustration levels grew and the repairs to the cable took extremely long due to the repair ship not being able to leave the port because of bad weather.

RocketNet (that’s us) however was still able to provide internet to the coastal customers by utilising another cable. We came up with another solution and simply directed the Cape Town traffic back to Johannesburg and from there used Seacom to breakout the internet.

That’s one of the reasons we rock!

Happy surfing!

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Google facts: There’s more to Google than you know

Google facts: There’s more to Google than you know

The meeting that created Google facts

In 1995 Larry Page met Sergey Brin while visiting Stanford as a potential student. Shortly afterwards the two started working out of their dorm rooms and developed a search engine known as Backrub. Backrub was then renamed to Google. Cool hey? First interesting Google fact.

Google facts There’s more to Google than you know
The future of Google birthed from a dorm room

The Googleplex

Google was founded on the 4th of September 1998. Google went public in 2004 at $85 a share, while today (2021) that same share is worth $1865.  The name Google was derived from a mathematical expression for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros (Googol). Google is currently located in Mountain View, California in their US premises known as The Googleplex.

More than a search engine

Google is not only a search engine, but it also offers a multitude of products that have been developed over the years. Not many people are aware that these products or services exist, so we’ve listed some of them below:

Google share price
Google share price grows exponentially between 2004 and 2021

1. Google Trends Visualiser

Have you ever wondered how some people keep up to date with the latest trends around the world? Well Google has a service that allows you to see the most popular search trends around the world at any given moment, Google Trends Visualiser. If you would like to know what the latest trends are, then this Google fact is your best bet.

2. World Wonders Project

Have you ever wanted to visit the Pyramids of Giza but have never had the chance to? Well now you can. Google has created a database consisting of ancient and modern wonders of the world, where you can visit these wonders virtually. This is a great way to explore new places without even leaving your home. It’s also a great idea for home-schooling parents.

3. X Company

X Company, formally known as Google X, is a “moonshot factory”. According to Goolge, X Company’s main aim is to develop and design breakthrough technologies or moonshots” as Google refers to them. These technologies aim to change the world and to better life as we know it. This is probably one of the most exciting Google projects currently ongoing. If you would like to see what kind of projects the X Company is working on, just simply visit the Google X Company. Easy as that.

4. Google Sky

There is a good chance you’ve looked for your house on Google Earth. Now you can explore space on Google Sky. Google Sky uses a multitude of databases to bring you the most incredible experience of space. Go have a look for yourself. We assure you that the results will shock you. Space is a never-ending world of infinite galaxies and if you want an idea as to how big it is, Google Sky will give you a sense.

5. Build Lego with Chrome

What? You can now get creative on Google and build with Lego. There is not much to say about this other than its totally awesome! Great for children, teenagers and parents! This will definitely bring out your inner child, just don’t show your kids this, or else you’ll be fighting over whose turn is next.

6. Google Art Project

400 art museums at your fingertips! On one computer! Thousands of extremely high-resolution pictures of art pieces allow you to view some of the world’s rarest art from the comfort of your couch. You can even create your own catalogue with your favourite artworks and painters and save them to view whenever you want.

7. Creative Sandbox Guide

Ever needed a solution to a problem within your organisation or business? Of course you have, who hasn’t? The Sandbox will help you solve these problems using technology.

And there you have it

Even though Google are one of the Big Tech Giants being scrutinised by the U.S. Government for tracking users online, it is still a Google fact that they are a brilliant company that has bettered all of our lives through their breakthroughs in the tech industry. There are plenty more to come, and Google definitely has a few projects hidden away from the Everyday Joe. So let’s see what Google has in store for us, you never know, a talking toaster could be the next big thing!