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There’s no doubting it-companies are increasingly shifting their deployments to the cloud, leaving the option of “on premise” behind. And why not? This is, after all, a challenging time for the space, what with the advent (and increase of) over-the-top (OTT) players, quick turnarounds, on the fly scalability, enhanced payment models, etc. all. Surely, there is no cause for debate!

But, let us examine it from a different perspective. Could there be any reason for services to be delivered from as near to the user as possible? Could there be any reason for communication service providers to deploy edge computing nodes closed to the end users? Could there be advantages to be accrued by the end consumers, the service providers and the communication service operators themselves? I allude to benefits such as improved response times, reduced bandwidth consumption, better quality of service, data offload, etc, of course.

If you ask me, the answer to these questions are all affirmative.

Permit me to explain.

The challenges the end users are facing today are multiple-delayed and jittery content delivery, site loading time, video quality, delivery, buffering, etc. All these directly impact the consumers’ service experience. From the communication service providers’ standpoint, it is a no-win, as, despite heavy investments in upgrading the core network; the benefits are too few-for them and the customer. Why?

First, content processing and delivery is taking place from the cloud, which may reside continents away. Even if data capacity is available on the communication service providers’ air-interface, the internet could get so choked that consumers are not able to obtain the required throughput. In fact, this challenge is becoming increasingly compounded, as multiple data intensive applications attain center stage today. These, of course, include, multi-player/AR/VR gaming, OTT streaming services, increased surveillance use cases, penetration of IIOT, expansion of smart cities and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

Secondly, as a majority of end-users utilize a significant amount of mobile data (which is quite an understatement!), deploying edge cloud delivery networks (CDN) becomes very urgent. Of course, this deployment can take place either at the communication service providers’ outfit itself or at central places, determined through collaboration amongst communication service providers. The reason is simple-ensuring content caching is achieved near users and can be delivered locally, instead of content originating from remote origin servers or CDN servers. It not only reduces latency, but results in saving the bandwidth cost for the communication service providers as users requests are not going to the internet every time. On top of it, intelligent edge CDN can be considered an innovation. Intelligent CDN supports the model, where, depending on the user data network, the location of CDN or edge CDN is determined. If user accesses the data from the operator, the content service provider returns the edge CDN to access the content. In case data is being accessed via Wi-Fi or some other place on the internet, this access takes place on the cloud CDN or a direct to origin server. Thus, one gets the best out of using a distributed cloud and edge computing.

In a nutshell, these innovations are required to optimize cost, enhance user experience or serve content as fast as its consumption. What is crucial to keep in mind here is that as an increasing number of consumers begin consuming data, factors such as reduced data rates, increased service penetrations, increases awareness or whatever the case may be, the bandwidth available in the network is not infinite.

In my opinion, the time has come to take information processing as close to the edge as possible i.e. to the place where most of the data is either getting consumed or generated. The idea is to take only processed information to the cloud, so as to minimize data consumption and enhanced user experience.

Indeed, technology 2.0 comes to the fore!

May 18, 2020 0 comment
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Africa has, for all intents and purposes, emerged as a poster-boy of the global economic market. It has silenced its critics in several fields, including (but not restricted to) banking, education, agriculture, activism, etc.

The continent’s digital content space is no different. The segment has, over the years, grown by leaps and bounds, all while emphasising on the adage, “Content is King”. To illustrate-according to Statista, revenue from the digital media space in Africa and the Middle East is currently pegged at $882 million (2016). The largest segment within this market is video games, with market volume of $522 million. Equally sought after are online television, video streaming, gaming and social media. By 2019, as per Ovum, this order is likely to change to mobile based e-commerce and health and video applications.

So, what is driving this juggernaut? In a nutshell, a combination of rapid smartphone uptake and high demand for fast and accessible data are responsible. As is well known, the smartphone has made quite a splash in Africa. This is, as per industry reports, largely owing to a rapid decline in the average selling price of these devices. The bottomline is this-the availability of sub $100 smartphones implies that customers for whom devices such as desktop computers, laptops and tablets were financially out of bounds earlier now have the option of accessing data through smartphones. The result? Mass market adoption of smartphones, of course! Moving on to the larger picture, this is expected to have a three-fold impact on smartphone availability-to the tune of 540 million devices in 2020. Meanwhile, the number of mobile broadband connections in Sub-Saharan Africa is also set to increase from 24 per cent in 2015 to 57 per cent by 2020.

It stands to reason that the increase in smartphone demand will lead to a spike in the demand for fast and accessible data. This is overtly true, in Africa’s case, at least. According to industry reports, African countries have been developing high performance networks with at least 41 countries already using commercial 3G networks, and 23 countries having access to 4G networks. Going forward, by 2020, about three-quarters of all mobile connections will be on 3G or 4G, while Wi-Fi (another means to access the internet) is being offered free in a number of towns and cities.

Clearly, then, the explosion of digital content in Africa ought to be no surprise at all! For a clearer picture of what may be in store, here’s a quick laundry list of content that is likely to shape the industry, going forward:

Gaming

It will come as no surprise that the continent’s youth segment is largely responsible for pushing gaming. This, too, is driven by the availability of games that come with a “made in Africa” tag. Essentially, these offerings are both culturally relevant and available on a variety of devices. It doesn’t end there, though-going forward, as per Statista, mobile gaming in Africa and the Middle East has registered double digit growth, from $228.6 million in 2015, slated to jump to $261 million in 2016. Age-wise, the 25-34 age group form the largest fragment of the 23.8 million global mobile gaming community while the 45 years and over segment are the least. Overall, the segment, as per PriceWaterHouseCoopers, is worth at about $217 million.

Videos

As per industry reports, the video segment in Africa is expected to witness a 45 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2015 and 2020. Of this, video-on-demand is beginning to hog the spotlight, with close to 100 platforms entering this very lucrative space.

M-learning Applications

According to The 2012-2017 Africa Mobile Learning Market report released by Ambient Insight, the five-year CAGR for the M-learning market in Africa is 38.9 per cent. Revenues are expected to increase more than five-fold to reach $530.1 million by 2017, up from $102.4 million in 2012.

Existing Grey Areas

Now for the flip side. Despite the very rosy picture portrayed by the space, it does have a fair number of grey areas which are yet to be tackled in a satisfactory manner. I allude to the issues of the lack of locally relevant content, high total cost of ownership, low literacy rates and the quite substantial gender gap across the continent.

Overall, though, the argument still stands-Africa is in tune with technology. This isn’t a distant dream propagated by armchair analysts anymore, it is an affirmation. The rest of the world, are you listening?

November 15, 2016 0 comment
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