Tonderai Rutsito Techspot
EXACTLY 12 years ago, I still vividly remember opening my first Yahoo email address after travelling all the way to town. I patiently waited for my turn as the computers were all fully booked till I finally
got an opportunity online at the then popular Africa Online Internet café.
Technology was still penetrating in the mainstream, there was no Google or Facebook, Yahoo Mail and the repulsively designed My Space ruled the roost.
If the present generation is to go back in time to those days I bet the Internet would be redundant.
Back then it was inconceivable that one could access the Internet on any mobile device let alone from home.
The few that were fortunate to have such access were only doing so at slow speeds of 56 kilobytes dial-up via a modem.
Of course, this definitely had very slow connectivity though it was impressive then.
However, the fact that using dial-up resulted in the blocking of all phone calls made it a serious inconvenience.
Given the rapid speed with which technology is developing I believe that I would not be seriously off the mark by predicting that accessing the Internet will become a national right to every citizen in the next five to 10 years.
Thumbs up to the mobile operators for offering GPRS access across all platforms, all you need today is a compatible handset and you are online.
Although mobile connectivity gives us browsing capabilities it is not enough to achieve huge downloads or serious tasks online as most mobile browsers limit functionality even on the latest smartphone.
This brings us back to finding real solution for the desktop version to complete our day-to-day tasks online.
Questions of stability, uptime connectivity and modes of connection then come in play.
A well-researched plan will have to be put in place before rushing to engage a service provider.
Depending on your physical location, methods of connectivity may vary.
Some forms which work perfectly well in Harare CBD may be dysfunctional in other cities, even in Harare residential areas or industrial areas. Connectivity solutions are not always equal.
Currently in Zimbabwe we have many forms of Internet connectivity including the new fibre optic, mobile broadband, wired broadbands, satellite connectivity and many other wireless forms.
I would like to briefly describe these forms to help the users on the available options to coherently understand the forms and later compare these with our local
Internet Service Providers.
Fibre connectivity is currently the fastest mode of connection in Zimbabwe.
Most companies are finishing the trenching with TelOne and Econet having completed their connectivity across the length and breadth of Harare via the Mozambican and South African sea line.
However, because fibre technology is still new, both the companies and clients will have to bear the installation costs making it the most expensive form of connection.
Wireless connectivity has brought so much excitement to technology as it brings in issues of mobility and flexibility.
Wireless Fidelity has become the in thing for most mobile users though this technology is only a form of extending connectivity to local, small home or office networks.
Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) is another form of wired Internet connectivity which uses the standard phone cable lines to transmit data.
A simple data, voice splitter is connected as the Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) to split the phone signal and the Internet data, while the local exchange room is connected to an extra equipment.
Mobile broadband is the most preferred Internet access mode especially among most young browsers.
This is mainly supported by the mobile phone operators’ backbone on GSM network.
All the mobile players are offering the service but issues of speed have not been properly addressed.
Cellphones, tablets are the major bandwidth takers. Mobility has also been enhanced via the use of dongles.
Service providers like PowerTel, Brodacom and Africom are some of the none GSM operators offering full mobile Internet connectivity.
Wide Area Networks have completely taken over the broadband speed of most Internet cable connectivity.
This has come with lots of advantages above Wi-Fi specifications and limitations.
Wireless Area Networks have a geographical edge and are not limited by physical structures like walls or trees. They can cover as much as cities, provinces and countries.
These have given birth to technology like Wimax, CDMA, UHF, GSM, and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellites.
All these services are being offered in Zimbabwe although they are under threat from emerging new technologies.
Ultra High Frequency is quite cheap though old wireless technology offered.
UHF channel, however, does not support so much speed with a maximum of 512kb/s that would then be shared by most Zimbabwean ISPs.
UHF uses the same bandwidth channel with our home VCR or TV decoders.
UHF is ideal for small companies depending on your bandwidth needs.
To receive UHF signal, a client might need to pay for a cable modem, the size of a DSTV decoder and an external antenna equally the size of a TV antenna but installation will require the expertise of the service provider.
VSAT is a satellite communications system that serves home and business users.
The system uses a satellite connection as a high-speed digital link between a customer’s location and the Internet backbone.
The data travels from the satellite equipment at the customer’s premise to the satellite.
A VSAT client needs a box that interfaces between the customer’s computer and an outside antenna with a transceiver.
The transceiver communicates to a satellite transponder in the sky. The satellite sends and receives signals from an earth base station that acts as a hub for the system.
A 56k modem is used for the transmitting link. VSAT system transmits data, voice and video signals.
A trained professional can only install these devices as the customer’s premise equipment CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) is now quite a popular service in Zimbabwe.
TelOne supports this service and when Huawei network introduced their wireless handsets, the network service got a resounding feedback that totally congested the network.
CDMA is a satellite-based technology which supports both voice, video and data transfer services.
To access CDMA service you will need to just buy the CDMA phone which has its own in-built line and voice call rates charges that are as cheap as 6 cents within networks and 12 cents per minute across networks.
For Internet service, all you need to buy is a portable wireless CDMA router that acts as both the access point to your computers and your uplink router to the global satellite.
The connectivity speeds range from a minimum of 256kb/s to 1mbs, I have personally tried CDMA Internet speed and it is really first class.
Wimax is the latest great service that could have completely covered most towns and cities but most service providers have broadcast only in the CBD and have totally ignored industrial and other potential areas.
Wimax is an acronym for Wireless Interoperability for Microwave access.
To achieve total coverage more Wimax base stations would need to be erected.
Wimax offers an amazing bandwidth of 70 mbps compared to some local broadband of 512kbs to 4mbs.
Download speeds can be up to 4mbps that is just the same with cable broadband.
It also stretches up to a maximum distance of 50km from the base station. It uses a line of sight technology of 30 km and loses quality when distracted outside this distance.
Although wireless technology brings flexibility and seamless connectivity, it can prove to be the most disastrous move if configured by an amateur.
Wireless technology needs more security than cable network does because the signal can be easily accessed by anyone who is closer to the broadcasting devices.
With the introduction of multi Internet Service Providers, competition has been stiff and end users are poised to be the main beneficiaries.
We are surely getting into an era where everything we do will be based online, forget all the operating system craze and brace up for the new online world order.
- The writer is a computing specialist with Technomag, More on Facebook http://facebook.com/technomagzw, twitter @technomagzw. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.