I still seem to have a dodgy connection to the Internet days after Seacom repaired its line. Gian Visser told me that there are associated issues on Internet Solutions’ side which are being ironed out and which may contribute to any problems I am still experiencing. My line is supposed to be a 4MB/sec line on Telkom. I use Afrihost as my service provider.
I’m not sure where the problem is and there is a possibility its my router so I thought I’d post a few test results I got using Speed Test and Ping Test and see if anyone else has similar results on Afrihost:
I switched my router off, left it off for 10 seconds or so and turned it back on. I then ran a ping test this morning on a Johannesburg server:
My second test had improved packet loss but otherwise still a poor result:
This third test uses another testing server in Maputo, similar results:
For my next act I ran a couple line speed tests, starting with a Durban testing server:
And then I tested the same server again:
I tested the Johannesburg server with slightly better results:
So my question is whether these lousy test results are due to issues on the network or whether I should just go replace my router? If anyone can suggest ways to test my router than would also be helpful.
I may have answered my question. Here are two search results I ran in a router diagnostic panel. I have no idea what these results mean so they could be no help at all:
I’ve noticed some pretty slow DSL speeds on my Afrihost 50GB line lately. I haven’t made the move across to an uncapped line yet for two reasons. The first is that it may work out better for us to stick with the capped line because it allows for 5 concurrent connections. This means I can use the account at home and at the office down the road (well, when our office line is installed). The second reason is that line speeds are being pretty heavily throttled if you have an uncapped line. This is what happens is you have a 4MB line from Telkom:
I want to use this account to download heavily – How is my usage going to be throttled if I do download heavily?
This is how we are currently dealing with our Uncapped 4096kbps accounts:
=============== PLEASE NOTE: These are our current settings we plan to use – however, they may change in the future.
This is our first iteration of a brand new product and we are learning as we go – We are hoping to refine this and over time make the limitations less ===============
On signing up to our Uncapped product you will get our standard ADSL service. (i.e. certain ports are shaped somewhat and web and email are prioritised.)
After you have moved 30 GBs you will be moved into a different category whereby certain ports will be shaped more aggressively. However, web and email will still be prioritised.
After moving a total of 60 GBs you will be moved into a different category where your line speed is throttled to 1024 kbps per second and certain shaping protocols are in place.
After moving a total of 90 GBs then you will be moved into a category where you will be throttled to 512 kbps. Certain shaping protocols will also be in place here.
After moving a total of 120 GBs you will be moved into a category where your line will be throttled to 386 kbps. Certain shaping protocols will also be in place here.
After moving a total of 150 GBs you will be moved into a category where you are throttled to 128 kbps.
You will never be capped.
If you use this account for heavy downloading then you WILL be throttled at some point in the month so please think about whether this account is for you.
While I understand that the networks can’t offer a truly uncapped and full speed service to everyone, this sort of throttling points out the limitations of uncapped ADSL in SA. To add to this the service is shaped so you don’t have full line speed in all applications.
What I am wondering about right now, though, is whether Afrihost’s capped services are also being throttled as more bandwidth is used. I have the 50GB package from Afrihost which is currently expanded to 100GB. We are about 5GB away from our cap and I have noticed that our line speed lately has been very erratic and slow. I don’t know if this is due to some sort of underlying infrastructure issue or if Afrihost is throttling my line speed too?
I ran a speed test this morning which gave me two results. This is the faster of the two:
Notice the ping time and the download and upload rates? They are terrible and based on the location of the testing server, the international line we are seems to be the Seacom line. I have noticed that turning our router off and on does give us a temporary speed boost but then we come crashing back down to a crawl.
So what’s going on? Is there an issue with the underlying network or does Afrihost throttle DSL users on capped packages too?
Update: I got some feedback from Afrihost’s Gian Visser:
I probably should have started this post a few months ago when I attended Brandsh’s Mobile World Congress feedback session in Sandton. The next best time to get this post done was around the time I flew to Cape Town to hear more about Nokia’s Ovi Maps and its recently announced free maps and navigation but I didn’t finish my post then either. Although those events are practically ancient news by now, I’m glad I didn’t jump in right away because there has been a flurry of developments since then which, together with those two events, paint an exciting picture of what we can expect from mobile in 2010.
High speed networks
We heard from Justin Spratt, Angus Robinson and Toby Shapshak at the Brandsh event. Justin spoke about the emerging LTE and WIMAX networks which have different approaches to 4th generation wireless networks. At first glance these two standards stand in opposition to each other and network operators and device manufacturers will be forced to choose one over the other. The networks certainly seem to have their preferences (locally we can probably expect MTN and Vodacom to follow the GSM evolution towards LTE in the next year or two) but it appears that we, the consumers, may not need to choose in the near future. The devices we will use to take advantage of these high speed networks may well support both LTE and WIMAX, giving us the ability to switch from one to the other. This probably won’t be as simple as it sounds in practical terms, perhaps more from an administrative perspective, but it could be a reality for us. The end result will be something closer to ubiquitous mobile broadband in cities and other better covered regions and, quite possibly, a truly mobile alternative to DSL connectivity.
Angus spoke about device limitations and expressed his opinion that specialised devices like GPS devices will still have a place despite many devices being capable of performing many of those functions fairly well. The iPhone is clearly a pioneering device and it has established a new baseline for a successful smartphone, whether competitors will acknowledge that or not. Its strongest competition is a range of touchscreen Android devices which are being indirectly targeted in Apple’s patent lawsuits against HTC (HTC manufactures a range of Android devices, including the Nexus One, Google’s latest stab at Apple’s iPhone dominance). These next generation Android devices are remarkably similar to the iPhone in many respects. Taking it a step further, even my Nokia N97 was, directly or indirectly, influenced by the iPhone. At the time Angus shared his thoughts, the iPhone still suffered from a number of limitations which come up whenever the iPhone is analysed. These limitations include no multitasking, no real organisational capability for the many applications you can load on to the device and so on. Those limitations are due to be removed when Apple releases its next generation iPhone OS later this year.
The iPad influence
This new mobile OS is likely to further enhance another Apple device which is taking the computing world on a new adventure. The iPad was announced in January to a mixed reception. It has since started shipping and the review are generally pretty good. Like the iPhone, the iPad is likely to spawn a new device category and a new way of thinking about many of our daily computing tasks. One of the criticisms facing the iPad is that between laptops, netbooks and smartphones like the iPhone and Android devices there is no real need for something like the iPad. The more I see, hear and read about the iPad the more I disagree. The form factor alone lends itself to a very different and much improved reading, browsing and general content consumption experience. Take a look at this video demonstrating a possible interface for a magazine on the iPad (and, conceivably, other similar devices):
While I am not convinced that I have an iPad in my future, I have already been thinking along the lines of a device with a similar form factor for some time now. Until the iPad started to arrive in people’s hands, I was pretty much determined to buy myself a Kindle DX. It turns out that the iPad also has a Kindle application which looks pretty good. If the e-ink issue becomes a non-issue, the Kindle devices simply don’t compare to an iPad.
I have also been thinking about all the apps I use each day and which of those apps are available on the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch platform. This app ecosystem is another reason why mobile is going to be so big. These apps are little content and functionality microcosms which don’t require users to be able to navigate to Web sites or go through more traditional installation processes to install the apps. This makes these devices much more accessible, less intimidating and appealing to the rest of the population (ie, not the techies). There are a couple apps which make the iPad a compelling device for me now (yes, I am eating my previous statements that I wouldn’t get one, ever). The iPad gives me mobile and convenient access to apps like –
Evernote for notes and a wealth of information and documentation I routinely capture into Evernote;
NetNewsWire for my feeds (I prefer Google Reader directly but integrating Google Reader-style sharing into a future version of NetNewsWire could change that preference);
iTunes for my media on the go while travelling or when I have some time to kill (it is much more convenient to whip out an iPad and watch or listen to something than it is to take out my MacBook, get it started, watch/listen and then put it back to sleep);
Kindle for the iPad gives me access to my Amazon ebooks on the go (other options could give me access to even more ebooks from other providers) and that r
emoves the need for me to carry whichever paper book I may be reading in my bag.
Add the browser that supports HTML 5 and most of my bases are covered. The roughly 10 hours of battery life makes the iPad a probably MacBook replacement for those day trips out of town. When you add a Bluetooth keyboard it becomes even more compelling. It isn’t quite as powerful or versatile as a laptop so I wouldn’t ditch my MacBook for the iPad (you still need to be able to sync the iPad to an iTunes running machine so it isn’t exactly a standalone device) but I could see myself walking out the door with an iPad, possibly a Bluetooth keyboard (the onscreen keyboard is apparently pretty good too) and my plane ticket.
Location, location, location
You’d have to be under a rock to not see that location based services are the focus of just about every mobile developer/service provider/device manufacturer. Nokia flew me and a group of journalists to Cape Town recently for an Ovi Maps themed event. Much of the event centered on Nokia’s strategy towards its mobile services and how the mapping technology comes together on the Nokia platform. We even found out about what it takes to develop the maps that Nokia’s supplier, Navteq, contributes to Ovi Maps. The whole process is a lot more technical than I thought and pretty impressive.
While Nokia’s devices are lagging behind the iPhone and Android devices (and, quite possibly, Windows 7 phones too in the near future), Nokia’s Ovi Maps is the best navigation software I have had an opportunity to use. The maps look great and introducing free voice guided navigation for life was a brilliant move. That being said it could be better integrated into social services other than Facebook and MySpace (still not sure why Nokia picked MySpace).
I’ve been using Foursquare through Gravity and, as much as I prefer Ovi Maps on my N97 for navigation and to discover stuff around me, Foursquare integrates into my various social services better. Simply adding Twitter integration into Ovi Maps location sharing and tidying up its location sharing posts to Facebook would make a Nokia device almost indispensable to me.
As much as I have used Foursquare, I am not sure I see its value as a sort of location based game. It feels like these location-based services need to mature and become more useful in real terms rather than as a hi-tech gimmick. Of the services I have seen so far, Ovi Maps is one of the services that has a good chance of doing this. Unfortunately Nokia devices don’t appeal to the digerati, trendsetters and influencers. This could well stymie Ovi Maps’ development and that would be a tragedy. I’d love to see Ovi Maps become available on other platforms but it is too important to let out the Nokia compound.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google’s location based services become more useful in real terms in the coming year or so. Google Maps is the best Web based maps service and the possible introduction of Google navigation in the next generation of Android devices to hit SA could put a dent in Nokia’s marketshare. I’m sucking much of this out of my thumb but it could happen.
Peering into my LCD screen
With all the developments we’ve seen in just 4 months, I think there is still a lot to come our way. There are rumours about Android-based tablets/slates already. The Amazon Kindle is practically an anachronism already as we see new devices enable rich media publications and incorporate richer functionality. Mobile phones are becoming more complex and capable and when you add more pervasive wireless broadband to the mix, our experience of the Internet becomes a lot more personal, useful and meaningful.
Businesses can expect to pay between R499 for 384 kbps DSL and R2 359 for up to 4 Mbps DSL. These prices are a little misleading and they vary depending on whether you are including ADSL line rental in your 12 month contract with MWEB (oh, yes, you need to sign a 12 month contract with MWEB).
The local Twittersphere has just gone crazy at the news with a number of people spreading the news as if it is the biggest ADSL news for the year to date. It is certainly fantastic news for MWEB subscribers who have been paying ridiculously high prices for their ADSL access so far. This pricing is not, however, the best pricing available to consumers or businesses. I don’t know how many businesses are still using 384 kbps lines unless their traffic is pretty much limited to email for a couple people so let’s assume more people will be using the faster connections. Once you are looking at pricing for the faster 4 Mbps lines, you can expect to spend around R2 000 for the pure data component with MWEB. Still not bad for an uncapped and unshaped ADSL connection, for sure. Well, until you consider Afrihost’s pricing …
You may be familiar with Afrihost’s R29/GB pricing offer which just seems to keep going. You may even be aware of the occasional double-up offer where you can buy 2GB of Afrihost data for R29. I just noticed that Afrihost is giving a lot of data away as part of its higher end packages (granted, the service is semi-shaped if that makes much difference to you):
I have a 50GB package with Afrihost and we tend to use around 60GB to 70GB on heavy months. 100GB is, practically, an uncapped package for us. I could probably find some way to use 100GB if I try hard (yes, I know it is easy to use that much data on illegal data transfers, I’m talking about the legal or semi-legal stuff) but it is quite a bit of data for R950. The price will probably revert to R1 450 for 50GB in June but that is still cheaper than MWEB’s equivalent, at least for me.
So, yes, MWEB’s pricing is great news for consumers, particularly its users who have been paying its absurdly high prices in the past but it isn’t exactly revolutionary for those of us who have been Afrihost customers (and other pioneers’ customers).
I am working at the airport for a couple hours this morning after dropping a relative off for a flight back home. The traffic heading back to Joburg is hideous so its worthwhile working here for a bit.
I just connected to Internet Solutions’ AlwaysOn hotspot at the Mugg & Bean at OR Tambo airport and I did a Speedtest like any geek would on connecting to a new hotspot and was pleasantly surprised by the upload speed for a change:
High upload rates are really important for the social Web which often involves more uploading than downloading. Current upload rates on ADSL are frequently miserly and this only stifles social media adoption when users are faced with slow uploads to popular social networks.
I’m going to upload something just to experience the boost in speed before returning to my usual upload trickle.
I received a heads up from G-Connect‘s agency, Emerging Media, about a special offer for the holidays a couple weeks ago. You may know that G-Connect is one of the broadband providers I use although mostly while I am on 3G. I use Afrihost as my main provider because its ADSL is cheap and can accommodate multiple concurrent connections. That being said, I often think my G-Connect connection is faster than my Afrihost connection when I do use G-Connect ADSL. I don’t know if it is actually faster but it certainly feels that way. If you are interested in my thoughts about these two providers in particular, check out my post about them.
Anyway, the special offer is pretty appealing and probably an attempt to deal with the explosion of ADSL providers offering prices even lower than Afrihost’s R29/GB although with mixed results. Here is part of the press release I received:
Adding even more fuel to the debate around the price of broadband Internet connectivity in South Africa, WirelessG has launched a promotion on their G-Connect product that sees it slashing pricing on ADSL, Wi-Fi and 3G Internet access by as much as 59% between the beginning of December 2009 and the end of January 2010.
The preferential pricing is available as part of a promotion the company calls its ‘30-Day Broadband Pass’ and as its name suggests, differs from the company’s G-Connect prepaid Internet offering and offers users the opportunity to get substantial discounts of between 39% and 59% on all access mediums while having a cap of up to 9GB for only R200. The effective price on ADSL is as low as 2.2 cents per MB while 3G is 28 cents per MB. However, when using this convergence bundle users will be required to consume their entire data allocation within 30 days of its purchase.
“While the promotion won’t see any data capacity rolling over from one month to the next, as is the case with the existing G-Connect product , the big win is that the offering is unlimited in the sense that existing and new users can purchase as many of these ’30-day passes’ as desired. They will further have the freedom to access mobile and fixed line networks which will be a specific requirement in the festive season with users travelling to holiday destinations. With this kind of product, families can hammer the networks at prices almost half of their existing bandwidth costs”, explains Carel van der Merwe, CEO of WirelessG.
“We believe that the promotion will do wonders for opening the market’s eyes to what’s possible with substantially larger data capacity limits and more cost effective pricing,” he says.
“This exercise will also give us and the market a view of what’s to come in the near future,” he adds.
Van der Merwe says that the ‘30-Day Broadband Pass’ promotion can be done due to the ease of use of our service and is a result of a temporary set of price reductions. “It is not designed to mislead the market, but to offer something special to satisfy the need of the December to January holidaymaker,” he says.
This announcement follows last week’s G-Connect price drop where the normal G-Connect ADSL rate was lowered by 29% to as low as 3.5c per MB. Prepaid users will therefore also qualify for lowered rates regardless of whether they purchase a ‘30-Day Broadband Pass’ or not.
G-Connect could do a couple things to improve its service, generally speaking, including its hit-and-miss Connection Manager which can be pretty temperamental. If you are away from your usual ADSL connection over the holidays and your mobile provider is still ravaging you with high mobile data costs, take a look at its pricing and this special offer. It may be worth your while.
I picked up a Nokia N900 yesterday to test for a couple weeks. I’ve been looking forward to using one of these devices for a while now and what I saw at the recent Nokia forum event excited me a little more. It is really important to point out that the N900 is not due to be available in South Africa at all. These devices haven’t even been approved by ICASA. Although the version I have is a retail version, it is one of 3 in the country and is purely for limited review. (see below for an exciting development) My approach to the N900 is to use it to get a sense of what Maemo as an operating system can do compared to S60.
Update (5 December 2009): I received some exciting news from Tania Steenkamp at Nokia SA last night. Nokia SA’s GM, Mathia Nalappan, has managed to secure N900 stock for the South African market. Nokia SA expects stock to arrive in 2Q 2010! I am going to post a more substantive review pretty soon. I have been using the device as my day to day device since I received it from Nokia.
Below is a FriendFeed channel embed (yup, FriendFeed is still around and the best service I could think of for what I want to do in this post). My plan is to post updates as I go and probably round up with a more complete post later.
News of Afrihost’s special offer has spread like wildfire and for good reason. Afrihost is offering ADSL connectivity for a low R29 per GB which is probably the lowest price in South Africa at the moment.
I am currently an Axxess customer and I just called Axxess to find out if they have any price drops planned. The sales person I spoke to said I should keep an eye on their website over the next 2 months or so because they are “looking into” reducing their prices. I pointed out to her that Axxess is going to lose a bunch of customers because Afrihost’s special offer is only valid for a limited time period. She asked me if I am a customer and I said I am an Axxess customer but I use a fortune of data (35GB this month so far) and it is costing me a bomb. She basically just told me to keep an eye on the site.
Being the lawyer I am I just called Afrihost and asked for the fine print for their ADSL offering. They don’t seem to have any but I did find out the following:
if you have exceeded your cap you will be directed to the Afrihost control panel to top up your bandwidth;
if you ever want to cancel your account you will have to give Afrihost 1 month’s notice (I suspect other providers like Axxess have the same notice requirement so bear this in mind if you want to leave your current provider for Afrihost); and
the special offer was supposed to end today but the call centre guys have been told to keep selling the cheaper packages for the time being.
There is no doubt the Afrihost offer will attract a number of new customers. I am seriously tempted by the 50GB package at R1 450. It is cheaper than my bandwidth at Axxess is costing me for a lot less and given my current usage, 50GB is practically uncapped for me. Another big plus is that Afrihost’s ADSL allows for 5 concurrent connections and if I understand that correctly, that means my family can also use my account for their DSL needs. That translates into an even lower cost all around.
What is clear is that pricing ADSL at anything more than R59 per GB for simple ADSL is foolish and we should see other providers drop their pricing sooner rather than later. Either that or those providers will start to fall away as serious competitors.
That just leaves you with one question. Have you signed up with Afrihost yet? I’ll be exiting the Axxess offramp shortly after about 2 years as an Axxess customer.