Wi-Fi Hotspot Usage Almost Double During World Cup 2010

Written by Jean Dennis, Traffic Intergrated Marketing

Cape Town – The somewhat one million tourists and soccer revellers visiting the country during the 2010 Soccer World Cup led to a significant surge in the demand for high quality bandwidth when many of them flocked to popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and local news site Sports24.co.za, which saw over 1 million unique users during this period.

“Users on the micro-blogging site, Twitter, set a new record on June 14 posting 940 tweets per second in the 30 seconds following Japan’s World Cup win against African team, Cameroon. This is about 200 tweets per second more than the average,” says Henk Kleynhans, CEO and co-founder of premium Wi-Fi hotpot provider, Skyrove.

“At Skyrove, we saw a significant increase in bandwidth demand from our hospitality venue clients as many of the international visitors not only engaged on social networking sites, but communicated with loved ones in their home countries via email and instant messaging and uploaded photos of their fan experience in South Africa.”

“Usage at restaurants, cafes and hotels using Skyrove’s Business-Class Wi-Fi solution was 78% higher during the World Cup. We recently started delivering free Wi-Fi vouchers to users via SMS and ensured that payment with credit card was quick and easy for end-users and hassle-free for busy location owners.”

While emailing and social networking remain the mainstay of web usage, tourists used the internet for sharing photos, swapping music, uploading videos and making Skype calls to their friends and family.

As a result, these tourists were far more demanding of their wireless connectivity and expected Wi-Fi hotspot providers to cope with the increase in bandwidth usage. Skyrove’s hospitality venues were prepared for this by ensuring they offered wireless connectivity that was easy to access, reliable and consistent across the entire property and did not leave guests feeling frustrated with slow, unreliable internet and inconsistent coverage.

Says Kleynhans, “We are confident that Skyrove’s offering for hospitality venues will be able to cope with the ever increasing demand for high-quality Wi-Fi hotspot service following the positive feedback from guests and venue owners during the 2010 World Cup.”

South Africa Internet Speed 93rd in the World

According to statistics published by Speedtest.net, South Africa’s internet speeds are slower than those in Rwanda, Uganda, Tunisia and even Azerbaijan.

The statistics are collated from more than 1.6 billion crowdsourced – that is, done by individual internet users – speedtests done at the website Speedtest.net and through its iPhone and Android apps.

The good news is that South Africa – at an average 2.32 Mbps – is faster than the average African download speed of 1.6 Mbps. The slowest speeds in the world are the be found in Zambia, at an average 0.26 Mbps.

Test your own connection speed at Speedtest.net. Also have a look at Pingtest.net to get a good idea of whether your connection will work for VoIP and gaming.

Note: Speedtest.net & Pingtest.net
are owned by Ookla, which was started by entrepreneur, former cab driver, SpeakEasy founder and allround great guy Mike Apgar)

Electronic Communications Facilities (ECF) Leasing Regulations

Last week ICASA published the ECF Leasing Regulations, hot on the heels of announcing that valuable wireless spectrum would go up for sale! Effectively, it means that anyone who controls any electronic communications facility, including cables, antennas, masts & even satellite transponders must share this with an ECNS licence holder that needs to use such facilities.

This is obviously pretty big news! If you’re in the industry, make sure you have a look at the Regulations, available from Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions - http://www.ellipsis.co.za/facilities-leasing-regulations/

I’ve also made a mindmap (incomplete) that outlines some of the pertinent points. I find a mindmap much easier to use for legal documents I find clauses like to refer to other clauses in the same document. With a mindmap I can quickly see the clauses being referred to without searching through pages. You can view (and download) the mindmap from http://www.xmind.net/share/geekrebel/electronic-communications-facilities-(ecf)-leasing-regulatio/ or use the embedded version below (click the PopOut arrow bottom right to view in Fullscreen mode)

Skyrove to take on mobile incumbents

Written by Duncan McLeod, TechCentral

Skyrove, a specialist wireless hotspot company, will launch an audacious bid for national radio frequency spectrum and, if it gets it, it plans to build a network to take on the country’s incumbent mobile operators.

TechCentral can reveal exclusively that the company, run by CEO Henk Kleynhans, plans to participate in an auction for national radio frequency in the 2,6GHz band. The auction, the first of its kind in SA, is set to take place in the next few months and involves spectrum at both 2,6GHz and 3,5GHz. It’s expected that the spectrum will be used to provide broadband access using third- and, later, fourth-generation wireless technologies.

Skyrove’s shareholders include venture capital firm 4Di Capital, which is ultimately owned by Reinet Investments (formerly Richemont), led by billionaire businessman Johann Rupert. Another shareholder is well-known East London-born Internet entrepreneur Vinny Lingham, the man behind fast-growing international website Yola.com.

Skyrove has built technology that allows anyone to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot and earn an income by sharing their Internet access with others. But now Kleynhans wants to take his business to the national stage, and thinks he has a model that will allow smaller players in the market to take on the giant operators in the industry.

Unlike other companies that are expected to bid for the spectrum — the mobile operators and larger Internet service providers are likely to be keen participants in the auction – Skyrove plans to share its infrastructure with other industry players if it wins the bid. “It is bizarre to think there should be only four service providers for 4G services when there are more than 500 licensed service providers in the country,” says Kleynhans.

“Skyrove will build a nationwide mobile broadband network, starting in urban areas, and will share the infrastructure with these service providers so they can provide 4G services, including telephony and video-on-demand.”The plan, says Kleynhans, is to sell the services directly to established Internet service providers in bulk and at wholesale prices. “We will not market directly to consumers and we don’t need to sign up millions of end-user customers ourselves before breaking even.”

Kleynhans says he can’t say yet who the company’s financial backers are. But whoever stumps up the cash will need deep pockets. Just participating in the 2,6GHz auction will cost R750 000, though this money is refundable. There’s also a nonrefundable application fee of R70 000. Of course, if the big incumbent operators take part in the auction, which they’re expected to, the bidding could quickly become too rich for many participants.

Big operators, including Vodacom, have suggested the spectrum that’s up for grabs should go to companies that have the financial wherewithal to build national networks. But Kleynhans says they’re being disingenuous. “It’s somewhat analogous to Encyclopaedia Britannica arguing that no-one could replicate what they’d done because they were ‘so big already’,” he says.

“Just as anyone with an Internet connection could contribute to Wikipedia, now anyone with a telecoms service licence will have open access to a platform on which they can provide innovative new services.”By selling access to the platform to other telecoms service providers, rather than trying to sell services directly to end-user consumers, Kleynhans says Skyrove will be able to regain its investment in infrastructure much faster.

“At the same time, because the infrastructure is being shared, service providers will pay much less than they would have if they built their own infrastructure or tried to build services on the incumbents’ networks.”

Kleynhans says Skyrove hasn’t yet decided which technology to adopt, though the company is keen on deploying 4G rather than 3G services using either WiMax or “long-term evolution”, the successor to the 3G networks operated by Vodacom and MTN.

Internet Cafe vs Wi-Fi – Hommage or Competitive Advertising?

I was sent this picture today of a sign at the African Axess internet cafe in Observatory.

Skyrove has 25 Wi-Fi hotspots in Observatory, with the vast majority charging R0.30 per MB (so R7 can get you well over an hour’s worth of internet access, or about 40 minutes worth of Skype).

You can find your closest Observatory Wi-Fi Hotspot on the Skyrove Wi-Fi Locator.

Meeting of the Minds – China Africa Business Summit

Published in ChinAfrica Magazine December 2009

Positive aspects of China’s involvement in Africa on display at 2009 China Africa Business Summit

Take the positive effects of Chinese companies coming into Africa. Use that as an example so that African governments and policy makers will say, “Hey, these kinds of partnerships do work.” Henk Kleynhans, Wireless Access Providers Association.

It seems the relationship between China and Africa has become an irresistible force in recent years. The desire to strengthen cooperation and understanding between the two is bringing people together to talk, listen and act. This phenomenon was on display in October when business and political leaders from China and Africa came together in Cape Town, South Africa for the 2009 China Africa Business Summit, hosted by Corporate Africa. “My view is that the summit was actually the beginning,” said Motsepe Matlala from the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions. “I think it was able to paint a map of where we must go [with the China-Africa relationship.]” Matlala said the networking was extremely useful and he was encouraged to see how the people came together.

The summit’s aim was to encourage the flow of ideas and expertise and included six panel discussions and six group workshops spread over three days. These sessions covered specific topics crucial to the development of Africa and the audience of national delegates and business leaders were able to benefit from a wealth of knowledge. One of the most exciting workshops at the summit was “Wireless Partnerships.”

Getting wired

There is a communications revolution going on in Africa and it seems to be moving faster than anyone could have predicted. The Wireless Partnerships workshop mainly focused on the radical changes seen in Africa as a result of the surge in cell phone ownership, as well as the direction this sector should be heading and the potential for Chinese companies to play a role.

Henk Kleynhans, from the Wireless Access Providers Association, chaired the session. He told the audience that by the end of 2009 there are expected to be 450 million cell phone subscribers
in Africa, a huge increase from just 280 million in 2007. This is the fastest rate of growth in the world and the social benefits have been enormous. Poorer Africans are now using their phones to perform important, daily tasks; mobile banking, money transfers, checking agricultural information, access to health information – the list goes on.

The audience also heard a presentation from Chen Junhua, representing the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei. Huawei has brought cell phones to Africa at a price that makes them accessible to whole new sections of the population. As Chen explained, the company is not simply dumping truckloads of phones on the continent. They have set up about 20 training centers around the continent, training 10,000 staff each year. They have also established research and development centers at Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria.

“One of Huawei’s main objectives is to improve the efficiency of society and bridge the digital
divide between rich and poor in the African continent and the rest of the world,” he said. Kleynhans said the Huawei example provides a useful way of looking at Chinese investment in Africa. “I do think that’s actually a phenomenal case study, in the sense that there was this opportunity for a Chinese communications infrastructure provider to sell goods in Africa. They realized the challenges but they came in and did what they needed to.”

Keeping right perspective

Kleyhans said Huawei should be seen in the proper perspective. He said that if the positive effects of Chinese companies coming into Africa are highlighted, they could be used as an example to show African governments and policymakers.

He told the audience that in his opinion this initiative would only work if Chinese companies are not restricted when coming into Africa. Kleynhans pointed out that Africa’s healthy communications revolution is partly due to the fact that governments have avoided protectionist policies in this sector. “There hasn’t really been any import tariffs that I know of [on communications equipment]. I think most African companies realize that what’s more important right now is to get more people connected. It’s not about the manufacturing of cellular equipment in Africa.”

Jumping the gun?

Another point of contention arose when Chen explained that Huawei was actively investing in LTE technology for Africa. LTE is the next generation of cell phone network technology that will eventually overtake the current 3G networks. “Over the years, Africa has been seen as a ‘Technology Follower.’ We believe it is high time that Africa be technologically on par with other global markets,” said Chen. This prospect has industry insiders chomping at the bit, but some in the workshop audience suggested the focus for now should be on getting a current 3G phone to every African possible, rather than prioritizing on LTE.
“I challenged that [suggestion],” said Kleynhans. “[We should be] leapfrogging the old technologies. Don’t slow down technology, because you probably will then get a situation where every single person in Africa has a normal 3G handset, but you find that the later applications for mobile money and educational tools will not be developed for the 3G technology. So you probably won’t be giving them access to what would be most beneficial to them.” Both Kleynhans and Chen said the summit
was an outstanding networking opportunity. “I’ve been contacted already by a number of potential
clients and partners,” said Kleynhans.

Workshops and panel discussions at the Summit:
* Agricultural self-sustainability
* Banking and finance
* Tourism
* Power and energy
* Wireless communication
* Developing partnerships with Chinese investors
* Mining
* Health

China Africa Business Summit at a glance

* Organized by Corporate Africa, backed by China Africa Business Council
* Held in Cape Town, South Africa October 21-23
* Dedicated to building partnerships and trade between China and Africa
* 12 nations represented
* According to business and political figures, the summit was a networking extravaganza
* 12 workshops/discussion panels on crucial African sectors
* Summit to become an annual event

Skyrove named as a South African Startup to Watch

We’re really proud to say we’ve been listed on isean.co.za ‘s list of South African Startups. Have a look at here to read about Skyrove and the 9 other awesome startups (and note that most of them are Cape Town based!)

Free Wi-Fi internet at Greenmarket Square

For an initial six months only, Capetonians can enjoy free wireless internet at South Africa’s oldest public space, Greenmarket Square. In a unique collaboration between Cape Town Partnership and Skyrove, the premium Wi-Fi hotspot provider, locals will now have access to 10MB’s of free internet daily.

The free wireless internet will be a welcome addition to Greenmarket Square’s newly developed residential community; their revamped retail area; and their outdoor marketplace. “Businesses on Greenmarket Square will see a significant increase in the number of people lingering in their establishments, as more locals will schedule meetings outside of the office – or linger over coffee – while they enjoy wireless internet in the cosmopolitan bustle of this 300-year old heritage space,” says Henk Kleynhans, CEO of Skyrove.

Says Kleynhans, “The influx of visitors to popular tourist locations during the 2010 World Cup will be significant and we wanted to ensure that we could accommodate even the most tech-savvy soccer revellers and possibly enhance the attractiveness of the precinct.”

“As we constantly strive to make Cape Town a valuable resource for both cultural and creative inspiration, Skyrove’s proposition has assisted us to strengthen our positioning as a creative hub,” says Cape Town Partnership Senior Project Manager Terri Carter. She continues, “We hope to roll out similar projects around the city very soon.”

The City of Cape Town has spent over R18 million on the upgrade of Greenmarket Square. The first phase saw the granite cobbles, laid in 1965, lifted and cleaned before being rearranged at new levels to accommodate surrounding restaurants. In addition, CCTV cameras and pedestrian lights were installed; new bollards, benches and signs were added; as well as the sidewalks paved. The roof of the ablution facility is being transformed into a stage which will allow for special events such as lunchtime concerts which will further enhance business in the Square.

Article published on the Cape Town Partnership website.

Exemplary Service – Customer Testimonial

Today we had a problem at one of our Wi-Fi Hotspots, the Fat Cactus, in Cape Town. We recently upgraded their equipment. Free Skyrove vouchers are registered so that they can only be used at a particular hotspot, and because of the upgrade, there were some vouchers still registered to the old Wi-Fi routers.

Unfortunately, the Fat Cactus still had a handful of old vouchers which weren’t working with the new equipment. One of our customers, Anthony, phoned us after not being able to log in at the hotspot. Fortunately we were able to quickly diagnose and solve the problem.

Anthony later wrote the following feedback on our customer forum:

Examplary Service

Today I had issues with establishing a connection to Skyrove’s hotspot at a local restaurant in Gardens. Firstly, the free vouchers I received from the venue did not work, then I could not surf the net through my pre-paid account. A frustrating experience indeed.

I contacted Skyrove support by email and promptly received a telephone call from Robert from Support, who went through the issues with me. He soon discovered the problems, addressed them in a friendly manner, and arranged the issue to be resolved. I then received a follow-up email encapsulating the discussion we had prior on the phone and even received some Skyrove credit in the form of a voucher number.

This is what I call ‘service’.

May Skyrove go from strength to strength. I’m a happy customer :)

I think there are 2 key learnings out of this:

First, proper communication with your customers. We use Zendesk to track all customer support queries. It makes a BIG difference to your customers when you keep them in the loop.

Secondly, have a customer forum. It’s always a bit scary to have a section of your website that might point out weaknesses in your product/service. But it’s also very transparent and engenders trust from customers. And of course now and then a happy customer might just make some time to thank you for solving their problems.

iPad Accounts for 5% of Mobile Wi-Fi Traffic

Wi-Fi roaming provider Boingo just reported on their blog that the iPad already accounts for 5% of Mobile Wi-Fi traffic, outpacing even Android devices!

Apparently, it took much longer for the iPhone to have this big an impact. (It’s still in the lead with 89.3% of hotspot associations)

Of course, it has to be noted that Apple’s devices (iPhone, iPod Touch & now iPad) are famous (notorious?) for actively seeking out and associating with Wi-Fi networks.

See the graph below for a breakdown: