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How Africa Will 'Leapfrog' Wired Networks

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the go-ahead-and-leapfrog-social-media-too,-it's-not-worth-it dept.

Networking 183

umarkalim writes "In an interview with Al Jazeera, Les Cottrell at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory explains how Africa will actually 'leapfrog' the need to install hard-wired cables. He says it's often overlooked that the continent is huge and that the countries are diverse. He says, 'the cost of the infrastructure is quite high, especially if you have to connect every home with copper cables and fiber-optic cables ... I think in many cases Africa will actually "leapfrog" the need to install hard-wired cables everywhere, and will be able to use different techniques such as the BRCK modem, the low-earth orbiting satellites or the 3G solutions to get connectivity to where they need.'"

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Wireless sucks (4, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44753405)

I still can't "leapfrog" wireless in my house. Running CAT6 all over the damn place.

Re:Wireless sucks (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753441)

Wired will always be superior to wireless. Wireless is what you use when you don't have access to wired internet. With wireless you're sharing your bandwidth with everyone and their brother. With wired, you have a dedicated pipe right to your computer. I suspect that in Africa they will be deploying wireless due to the fact they don't have the infrastructure to do anything better.

Re:Wireless sucks (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753483)

Or perhaps they can just do like India

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thetreeofliberty.com%2Fvb%2Fshowthread.php%3Ft%3D142839&h=0&w=0&sz=1&tbnid=aGFAr9WTVQ2pUM&tbnh=184&tbnw=274&zoom=1&docid=IXBjg5RBkmFF0M&hl=en&ei=nrcmUoivGsrm2gWnpYD4BQ&ved=0CAMQsCU

Your url sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754373)

Re:Wireless sucks (4, Informative)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year ago | (#44753487)

They don't, but it's interesting how good they can make wireless. Went on safari in Kenya and Tanzania last year. I had cell signal everywhere and 3G almost everywhere. I was on big roads, of course, but service really was impressive.

Re:Wireless sucks (2)

gerf (532474) | about a year ago | (#44753655)

And it's cheaper, with Cell C competing against MTN and the likes, and winning. Prices have come down drastically since I've been there, to the point of making my Verizon plan look uncivilized.

Re:Wireless sucks (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754381)

My experience in the Ivory Coast was that I could rarely get a working 3G data connection in the more populous parts of Abidjan (Koumassi for example), but it worked ok in more upscale areas (Zone 4).

Out near the Liberian border (around Binhouye) I got an amazingly good EDGE signal - slowish data rates of course but incredibly reliable. I was probably the only person using mobile internet for 10's or even 100s of km.

Of course that was last year so everything has probably completely changed since then.

Re:Wireless sucks (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44753545)

With wired, you have a dedicated pipe right to your computer.

Dedicated from the street into your home. Further out than that, you are sharing the cable or fiber with your entire neighborhood. And if the operator decides they want to reserve more bandwidth for on demand TV or whatever, you get squeezed onto what is left. Along with all the porn downloading, BitTorrenting gamers in town.

Wireless is great because all the bandwidth hogs hate it and leave it alone.

Re:Wireless sucks (2)

xQx (5744) | about a year ago | (#44753733)

Correct. But would you prefer a contended 10GB/s fiber connection, or a contended 100MB/s LTE connection?

Yes, Wireless is getting better, but so is copper and so is fiber.

The current fiber speed record (held by NTT Japan) is 1,000,000 GB/s; compare this to wireless: Speeds of over 1 GB/s are expected to be delivered by 802.11ac.

Wireless has been "the future" for the last 40 years. Fixed technologies will always be more expensive to install, but faster, more reliable and more scalable than wireless. It's just physics.

Re:Wireless sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754305)

latency is the real issue, if wireless can improve that (which is a big ask) then it can be viable. Don't get me wrong 10GB/s would be great but what are we downloading that is that big, 100MB/s would be more than enough for me and I'm a pretty heavy user. But without better latency it will always feel second class no matter how high the download rate is, if it takes longer to send the request for a page than it does to load it you have issues (and gaming seriously suffers).

Re:Wireless sucks (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year ago | (#44754815)

latency is the real issue, if wireless can improve that (which is a big ask) then it can be viable. Don't get me wrong 10GB/s would be great but what are we downloading that is that big, 100MB/s would be more than enough for me and I'm a pretty heavy user.

Trying streaming Netflix or Hulu along with your neighbors.... All of a sudden, that shared 100MB/s becomes 2MB/s or less, and a stuttering image for your viewing pleasure. Or try uploading those nifty 20+MB images you just took to your favorite photo printer to create a poster or two. You might be there a while. Yes, this is also a problem with wired, at least in the US, with hugely asymmetric upload / download ratios. I have wireless N in the house, I'm running cable next week to remove my HTPC from wireless, it's just too slow.

Re:Wireless sucks (1)

Ragzouken (943900) | about a year ago | (#44754487)

what about every single average joe using netflix you're sharing your wireless with?

Re: You're sharing bandwidth. (5, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about a year ago | (#44753553)

Not necessarily.

You're sharing SPECTRUM with everyone and their brother. And that's actually even worse.

And building capacity for wireless is non-trivial as well. It's not just a matter of putting up another access point or uplink.

Example: GenCon.

Downtown Indianapolis has a plethora of connection options. Wired, wireless, cellular, etc.

On a Friday evening it just doesn't matter. Getting online via ANY means is a joke. You're better off with IP over smoke signal. As 50,000 people (over twice the population of the city I live in and an increase in Indy's total population to the tune of about 5-6%) in the area blitz the available spectrum for wifi and cellular, while wired connections in the hotels are drowned by rooms filled to capacity and everyone sporting a laptop/tablet/etc. And it's a static population increase for those 4-5 days.

Granted, in much of Africa, the population density is NOWHERE near that high. But you also have the same problems you would laying out a "universal" internet or power grid in the US. You have densely populated areas that are difficult and expensive to build capacity into. And you have very sparsely populated areas where people building the capacity likely will never see a return on investment. And the latter actually outnumbers the former by an order of magnitude or more. And Africa is the same thing, but with over 3x the landmass and population.

If something like this was going to be as simple as they're talking about, it'd have been done already.

Re: You're sharing bandwidth. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44754263)

Right, there's no profit to providing the internet to rural areas therefore no one will do it. We only got phone and electricity service to everyone in the US through strong incentives. I suspect it'll be like early days of mobile; the big cities will have it and no one else.

Still I think getting electricity strung out first will be much more important than some fluff like wireless internet.

Re: You're sharing bandwidth. (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754401)

Right, there's no profit to providing the internet to rural areas therefore no one will do it.

But there is profit providing telephone services.

And these days whenever someone hooks up a cell tower the internet comes more or less by accident.

Good ole bandwidth problem (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#44754405)

Downtown Indianapolis has a plethora of connection options. Wired, wireless, cellular, etc.

On a Friday evening it just doesn't matter. Getting online via ANY means is a joke. You're better off with IP over smoke signal. As 50,000 people (over twice the population of the city I live in and an increase in Indy's total population to the tune of about 5-6%) in the area blitz the available spectrum for wifi and cellular, while wired connections in the hotels are drowned by rooms filled to capacity and everyone sporting a laptop/tablet/etc. And it's a static population increase for those 4-5 days.

What you have described, Sir, is a problem of having not enough bandwidth on the outbound pipes connecting Indianapolis to the outside world.

Re: You're sharing bandwidth. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754801)

But you also have the same problems you would laying out a "universal" internet or power grid in the US. You have densely populated areas that are difficult and expensive to build capacity into. And you have very sparsely populated areas where people building the capacity likely will never see a return on investment. And the latter actually outnumbers the former by an order of magnitude or more. And Africa is the same thing, but with over 3x the landmass and population.

If you're talking about the U.S. with the Urban/Rural divide, I believe you meant to say the urban population vastly outnumbers the rural by a vast amount.

Urban population in the U.S. is roughly 80% of the total population. I don't know what the percentage is for Africa.

Re:Wireless sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754021)

Correct! using the term leapfrog is dumb, that makes it sound superior, wireless will never be better then a direct wire that has all the bandwidth with less interference and a direct point to point link to your PC.
I will stick with my current cable connection, untill I get some fiber thanks!

Re:Wireless sucks (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44754253)

You need to string out the wires anyway. Most of the expense will be the long distance wires, the cheap part would only be the last few yards that wireless covers. Wireless makes more sense with high population density, but Africa is low density. Once you've strung out cable to a small village for the access point then it's not much of a big deal to just run a short wire around.

Wireless I suspect will mean lots of batteries, most people when they say "wireless" means not attached to a power cable. That's a lot of batteries and we still don't have a nice way to dispose of the old ones.

If we're going to "leapfrog" then let's leapfrog to a better solution.

Re:Wireless sucks (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#44754415)

Once you've strung out cable to a small village for the access point then it's not much of a big deal to just run a short wire around.

It's quite expensive to retrofit cables to existing areas and buildings, if you have to dig it all up just for that it's often more cost efficient to do wireless. However new buildings are different, you're going to dig up the ground to put in electricity/water/sewage anyway, pull all the cables in the walls along with everything else. I can't speak much for Africa but here in Norway I'm fairly sure fiber will become standard through "organic" growth but replacing most buildings takes 50-100 years, the only question is how much faster we'll go by retrofitting.

Re:Wireless sucks (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | about a year ago | (#44754701)

most people when they say "wireless" means not attached to a power cable

This article is about wired vs wireless *networking*. But I suspect power cabling is an issue as well. Otherwise they could just do Ethernet over Power (EoP, aka Power line communication). [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wireless sucks (0)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year ago | (#44753493)

I still can't "leapfrog" wireless in my house. Running CAT6 all over the damn place.

On a more serious note, look how well china is doing by skipping a generation of technology. Sure, they're ruining the atmosphere and certainly burning a few bridges that won't ever get crossed again ... but ... PROGRESS.

oh. and profit, too.

Re:Wireless sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754357)

Oh let them have a go, we were wrecking the place for decades before they had a go, and it's not like we are any better now, we just export all of our garbage to china so we don't look like the bad guys. I'm not sure the world could survive china going green right now everything would go up in price and they wouldn't be interested in taking our crap because it would cost too much to process. Also co2 emissions per capita are much lower in china then in almost all of the developed countries.

Re:Wireless sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754737)

Oh let them have a go, we were wrecking the place for decades before they had a go, and it's not like we are any better now, we just export all of our garbage to china so we don't look like the bad guys. I'm not sure the world could survive china going green right now everything would go up in price and they wouldn't be interested in taking our crap because it would cost too much to process. Also co2 emissions per capita are much lower in china then in almost all of the developed countries.

Absolutely not. Would you let young children seriously hurt themselves simply because you were able to?

Re:Wireless sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754767)

What are you going to do? How are you going to solve the problem? How are you going to give everyone in china a similar lifestyle as more developed countries and then how are you going to stop the 3 times increase in co2 emmissions that that would cause? Got a lot of smart asses that reackon they can solve the worlds problems but not many solutions. If we stopped spending trillions of dollars on weapons i guess it might be possible.

Re:Wireless sucks (2)

xQx (5744) | about a year ago | (#44753745)

Do you really need CAT6 in your house?

In the entire time that you've had your network, have you ever exceeded the limitations of Cat5e?

CAT6 isn't just more expensive, it's a bastard to work with.

Re:Wireless sucks (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44753905)

Just planning ahead. Saves the need to rip and relay should ten-gig ethernet ever make it to the home.

Re:Wireless sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754015)

I have not ran anything but Cat6 for the last 5 years, its all the company I work for buys and therefore all that is ran in my house :)

Re:Wireless sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754783)

Cat6 is no more difficult to work with than Cat5e, at least as long as you are observing bending radius, if you are not, then you are doing it wrong and your cabling is not up to spec.

It's marginally more expensive, but not nearly as expensive as having to rewire with Cat6 or HDMI when you decide to run something other than GigE.

The only difference between Cat5e and Cat6 is a small difference in diameter of conductors and a t-shaped conditioner replacing the stranded polyester conditioner used in Cat5e. It's slightly fatter but not enough to make it harder to work with, and makes it easier to observe bend radius as it is less flexible.

I also wired my house with Cat6, though I'm pretty sure my terminations aren't spec (I'm not a professional cabler).

Also many of the cable specifications are not so shit will work, but so that EMI limits are observed. GigE in practice works over all sorts of non-spec cabling and damaged cabling, and the terminals have no way of knowing the cable has excessive radiation, and it's also not likely to cause observed interference problems in a domestic setting, particularly with the low volume of installed and utilised cabling. The specifications are there to ensure correct operation in the worst allowable environment, and ensure correct operation of other delicate signalling equipment that might occur in the same environment.

I have seen ethernet framing errors in dense datacenter and factory structured cabling, I have never observed framing errors on any home networks or outdoor use at festivals (and this was over cabling that was over the maximum cabling length specified by 802.3). The reality is homes are both quieter in terms of EMI sources and have less equipment that is adversely affected by slight EMI violations, and don't have compliance officers or FCC agents waving magic wands around looking for out-of-spec EMI sources.

since you're there anyway... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753413)

all the houses need power anyway... as my grandfather said if you're riding the hog anyway you may as well ride it to work.

Re:since you're there anyway... (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#44753417)

as my grandfather said if you're riding the hog anyway you may as well ride it to work.

LOLWUT?

Re:since you're there anyway... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753423)

Power need not come from a centralized distribution platform. Quite the funny saying, though.

Re:since you're there anyway... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753601)

That may be the case, since wireless power will never happen. Even though there was a time when it would have happened if it hadn't been for some unfortunate events, people will choose being homeless and living in filth to have a wireless phone before figuring out how to live in homes in communities that implement systems for water, waste and electricity.

Next to me, right now as I type, I'm watching a dead tired homeless guy that hasn't showered or changed clothes in at least a year or two, plug in his iPod at a Starbucks in Silicon Valley.

Re:since you're there anyway... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753789)

I made the mistake of calling it an iPod when I meant to say iPhone; probably because of all this iStuff not being my cup of tea. But he does have good taste, much better than mine, according to Apple fans.

Re:since you're there anyway... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44753799)

Maybe that's all he has left over from his "life"? Ya know, the one he had before the economy was run into the ground...

Re:since you're there anyway... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753945)

How much money does it cost per month to make one of those operational; assuming it's voice only, text and data plans being out of the question? It's all about priorities, ya know; as it was in the parent post.

Re:since you're there anyway... (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754411)

hat may be the case, since wireless power will never happen

Tell that to the people using solar power.

No wires between the sun and the panels.

Re:since you're there anyway... (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#44754685)

Yet wires between panels and equipment using the electricity. Hmm?

Re:since you're there anyway... (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754773)

Yes, and tiny little wires inside the cellphone.

But the point is it is possible to have electricty without wires coming in to your house from some central power generation facility.

So there may be no hog to ride.

That's cool and everything, but... (1)

0m3gaMan (745008) | about a year ago | (#44753431)

...shouldn't they focus on law and order first?

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (4, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year ago | (#44753527)

Yes. But that's somewhat orthogonal to the discussion, in the sense that Africa really has a lot of unresolved issues that won't go away until a lot of people die. Europe went out and conquered the world from 1500-1900, and then immolated itself in two huge wars in the twentieth century that fundamentally came down to questions of governance. Africa has to have some of those kind of wars, where everyone loses, before its people will accept suboptimal solutions.

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44753803)

The main problem is that Africa did have those wars. It was just the wars of their colonial powers...

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754269)

Without forgetting the wars currently raging

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754413)

So, if you're not forgetting them you know where they are, right?

How many African countries currently have serious unrest, how many don't?

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (2)

grcumb (781340) | about a year ago | (#44753587)

...shouldn't they focus on law and order first?

Sure, fine, but good communication and coordination are necessary elements of law and order, from developing a cultural intolerance for corruption right down to the cop on his beat and emergency numbers.

The moral of the story is, nothing comes 'first' before communications technology, because everything you do benefits from better comms capability, whether it's knowing the market price of the grain you grow, or finding job opportunities in your city, or organising a community protest, or just using plain old wikipedia to supplement your need for basic facts.

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44754273)

You won't get any wireless infrastructure without law and order first, without it turning into a spotty service only good in big towns (sort of like how it is in the US). And you wont' get wireless infrastructure being usable without first getting electricity infrastructure up first (or are we going to have the entire country ramp up use of generators and pollution just so they can check their email?).

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | about a year ago | (#44754399)

the guys that build this http://www.gizmag.com/solara-uav-atmospheric-satellite/28886/ [gizmag.com] reckon it could run a cell phone network "Additionally, Titan points out that one of the aircraft could provide cell phone coverage for an area of over 6,500 square miles (16,800 sq km), offering the reach of over 100 ground-based towers.". Sure it's not going to be able to handle a new york level load, but there are plenty of spots in africa where only a couple of hundred people live in an area that big.

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (2)

bmajik (96670) | about a year ago | (#44753693)

Actually, do you know which country in Africa has the cheapest cell phone providers?

Somalia.

(ref: http://www.economist.com/node/5328015 [economist.com] )

Somalia fascinates me from a free-society perspective. Usually Somalia is the punchline of some attempt to troll a libertarian, but if you actually look at what's happening there, it's quite fascinating.

This paper is one of my favorites. Take a look, you may be surprised:

http://www.peterleeson.com/Better_Off_Stateless.pdf [peterleeson.com]

Re: That's cool and everything, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753757)

Some funny interesting points in there indeed. Like this line "Somaliaâ(TM)s improved development belongs to its economy, which has been allowed to grow in the absence of government predation."

Re: That's cool and everything, but... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44753823)

The absence of taxes is great, as long as you don't expect any of the amenities these taxes pay for.

Re: That's cool and everything, but... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#44753917)

It self organised quite well without government.

The pirates have even formed their own inventment organisations to fund the cost of launching an attack ship and spread the risk in case it fails to capture any hostages.

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#44754091)

but if you actually look at what's happening there, it's quite fascinating.

It's so fascinating that Somalian pirates surrendering to European navy beg to be sent to jail over here. They prefer being in prison in Europe to living free in their libertarian paradise.

Re: That's cool and everything, but... (1)

therealkevinkretz (1585825) | about a year ago | (#44754371)

Anarchy is not a "libertarian paradise".

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754449)

Actually, do you know which country in Africa has the cheapest cell phone providers?

Somalia.

That dates from 2005, I mean the article ends:

And then there is Somalia itself. From a distance it looks like a free-market nirvana after The Economist's heart; but closer up it better resembles an armed oligarchy, capable of taking anything it wants at the point of a gun—even a Nokia handset.

Seriously? A Nokia handset?

So, how is the great Somalian cellphone revoultion doing today?

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (1)

LostMonk (1839248) | about a year ago | (#44754321)

Stable and dependable communication really helps establishing law and order.

Re:That's cool and everything, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754561)

The easiest way to make people want law and order is to give them enough nice things that they want protected. It's that "nothing to lose" thing that creates lawless societies. To have nice things, you need infrastructure. There's no use for a phone without a network. There's no use for a car without roads.

Leapfrog implies better (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about a year ago | (#44753433)

Wireless gets them some access which is better than nothing but not even close to fiber. Your not going to magic around the spectrum issues .

Re:Leapfrog implies better (2)

grcumb (781340) | about a year ago | (#44753613)

Wireless gets them some access which is better than nothing but not even close to fiber. Your not going to magic around the spectrum issues .

Yep, it would be much more accurate to say they're leapfrogging past copper - which is a Good Thing. But fibre isn't optional, not even with O3B's MEO satellites [o3bnetworks.com] in the picture. If you look at the submarine cable map [submarinecablemap.com] , you can pretty much see at a glance which countries are more aggressive about internet and technology in general, and which ones are being left behind. Fibre is going to be needed in most urban areas, even if it doesn't ultimately consist of FTTH.

Re:Leapfrog implies better (3, Interesting)

petermgreen (876956) | about a year ago | (#44754211)

If you look at the submarine cable map [submarinecablemap.com], you can pretty much see at a glance which countries are more aggressive about internet and technology in general

Kind of interesting.

If you look at the US there are lots of submarine cables but most of them are heading out across the ocean to europe and asia with a few links heading up along the coast to alaska and south/central america. If you look at europe you see the occasional coast hugging submarine cable but most of the submarine cables are either crossing a local body of water (e.g. english channel, mediteranian sea, north sea, baltic sea ) or heading off towards America or africa/asia. Australasia is a similar picture, there are submarine cables sure but they are either connecting islands or heading off out the area. I interpret this to mean that the overland infrastructure is good enough and the countries trust their neighbours enough that submarine cables are only used when there is a good technical reason for using them.

On the other hand if you look at The middle east, africa, south and east asia and south america you see the map is dominated by cables hugging the coast with lots of landing points (virtually every non-landlocked country is hooked up to at least one of the coast hugging cables). I interpret this to mean that either the overland infrastructure in those areas sucks and/or the countries don't trust their neighbours.

In a couple of places (libya, angola, south africa) I even see cables that only land in one country but hug the coast landing repeatedly. This really suggests that the conditions for building overland infrastructure in those places must suck.

I also notice that a lot of the so called "undersea cables" from europe to asia cut across land in Egypt to get from the Mediterranean sea to the gulf of Suez. Could be nasty if egypt stops being friendly with the west.

Re:Leapfrog implies better (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44754307)

The best thing for Africa is to NOT get them hooked on stupid things like youtube or streaming video on demand. 28.8 modem is good enough to get email and news and basic web service.

Re:Leapfrog implies better (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#44753643)

The old non adsl 'donated/charity' exchanges, copper quality and distance can make any useful wireless tech a good option.
Over time, copper or optical solutions can be expanded.
The good aspect of wireless is the ability of 'any' new firm to enter the market, rather that have to get/rent hardware at an exchange.
Solar, line of sight and emerging wireless networking math can offer good basic service to many in cities or regional areas.
Over time ping and user count will see the need for a build out of optical.

Re:Leapfrog implies better (3, Insightful)

mjwx (966435) | about a year ago | (#44753743)

Wireless gets them some access which is better than nothing but not even close to fiber. Your not going to magic around the spectrum issues .

This.

But the biggest issue in Africa is not spectrum (yet) it's copper theft.

This is pretty much the only reason wireless is better than wired. There are very few components worth stealing.

Re:Leapfrog implies better (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44753831)

And the ones that are can easily be locked away and guarded.

Something new? (1)

Phroggy (441) | about a year ago | (#44753451)

Didn't we know this ten years ago? How is this news?

Re:Something new? (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year ago | (#44753499)

Didn't we know this ten years ago? How is this news?

It's not NEW news. Nothing out of africa is, really. We just wait until there is something interesting to report on, and ... BAM. "News" for the news-hungry masses.

Re:Something new? (1)

pthisis (27352) | about a year ago | (#44753537)

Seriously. Even in 1999 there were stories about how cell reception would leapfrog copper wire not just in Africa but in South America (where I was living, and it happened in a total no-brainer). There might as well be a story saying that Lagos won't see a huge Blu-Ray rental infrastructure built out.

Re:Something new? (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#44753635)

Seriously. Even in 1999 there were stories about how cell reception would leapfrog copper wire not just in Africa but in South America (where I was living, and it happened in a total no-brainer). There might as well be a story saying that Lagos won't see a huge Blu-Ray rental infrastructure built out.

redbox ftw!

Missing wires (4, Informative)

Tekoneiric (590239) | about a year ago | (#44753495)

They are leapfrogging wired because every time they lay down wires it gets stolen and sold on the black market. The news was talking about that years ago. It's forcing them to use wireless.

Re:Missing wires (4, Interesting)

aXis100 (690904) | about a year ago | (#44753651)

I had a mate who had a few kilometers of fibre cable deployed outside of their refinery area in africa. Unsurprisingly, some enterprising bugger would come along and dig it up, hack into it only to discover it wasn't copper. That in itself wouldnt be too bad - I mean it's not the end of the world to pull a bit of slack and splice the ends together.

Unfortunately the same would-be copper thief would then travel along the cable a few more metres and try again... and again. Just in case it changed you know?

Re:Missing wires (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about a year ago | (#44753841)

We have people in the US ripping up three phase electrical cabling from the outside of buildings. You want to talk about having a set of balls! These guys know no fear when it comes to ripping off solid copper. I'm pretty sure the guys in Africa have no problem pulling electrical wiring leading up to the towers too.

Re:Missing wires (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753931)

I'm not sure which group has more balls. In the U.S. it's usually drug addicts. In Africa it's just jobless people trying to afford beer and grub (and, if they're feeling generous, feed their families). Crack and methamphetamine can make you pretty fearless. On the other hand, parts of Africa have machine gun wielding bandits who place no value on human life, which means just walking around requires a certain fearlessness and penchant for risk taking.

I'll answer that for you... (1)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#44754661)

I'm not sure which group has more balls.

I'll answer that for you: the group where the wires they are stealing are capable of killing them because they are hooked up to a functioning electrical grid. Three phase power will happily fry your ass, if you try and steal a live wire.

Re:Missing wires (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754831)

I call BS on this, most High voltage and 3-phase cabling is Aluminum, which is worth a lot less than copper.

Re:Missing wires (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753895)

I heard about people doing this kind of stuff over a hundred years ago, mostly as part of a story on the emergence of paying attention to detail in detective work, and how analysis of metal fragments on clothes was used to catch people pinching copper from telegraph poles.

It's kinda annoying people still feel the need to ruin infrastructure by ripping it up just to get through to the next day. Such people should either find more worthy employment of if there really is none around, lay down and die and stop ruining things for the rest of society.

Re:Missing wires (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754035)

The term "leapfrog" suggests jumping over a older technology to go to something better, which makes this sound better, that is wrong, wired is always going to be better then a wireless connection. Someone needs to change the subject line.

Re:Missing wires (2)

MadX (99132) | about a year ago | (#44754125)

I can confirm. I have seen where cables were laid, and while they are busy trying to terminate - 2 kilometers down the road, they are busy digging it up. So at the end of the day, despite wireless being slow, it still becomes the data delivery method of choice. Also, there is a single entity that realy "owns" the majority of cables (Telkom), and they are resisting pressure to reduce pricing.

So the private firms use wireless, because it frees them from having to rely on a state owned enterprise that controls all hardwired connections outside of your building(s).

In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753513)

In other news Africa is set to become the next world super power.

[ the cluelessness of some people is amazing ]

the continent is huge (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44753531)

Yes, it is [amazonaws.com] ...

Re:the continent is huge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753747)

Which explains what? We're in real trouble when we try to provide connectivity for Eurasia.

You Still Need Wireless (1)

Ironlenny (1181971) | about a year ago | (#44753593)

Low orbit satellites are not going to carry a continent's worth of network traffic. On top of that you still need backhaul at your ground stations. All those cell towers, they need something for backhaul. Microwave repeaters are only going to carry you so far. On top of that fiber simply has the highest available and future bandwidth with the lowest latency of any available technology. Sure wireless may dominate the immediate future of Africa, but eventually they'll exceed it's limits and move to a wired infrastructure.

South America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753667)

They said this about South American counrties over 10 years ago--that they aren't saddled with the developed world's copper infrastructure (as in North America, Europe, Japan, etc), and would innovate with wireless more thoroughly.Turns out the developed world can use wireless, too, as well as their wired infrastructure, to press forward.

Who's paying Africa internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753707)

I hope the Africain put down all the money - I'm not going to fund when my home internet is still pathetic at 1.5Mbps on a good day

Re:Who's paying Africa internet? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753851)

15 years ago, the thought of 1.5 Mbps to your home would have made you cream your jeans.

Re:Who's paying Africa internet? (1)

basecastula (2556196) | about a year ago | (#44754109)

15 years ago, the thought of 1.5 Mbps to your home would have made you cream your jeans.

Get off my lawn!

No shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753801)

Without a proper infrastructure, mobile internet was always going to be the only real option for Africans for the foreseeable future.

IMO OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) messed up a bit by concentrating on notebooks. If you want to provide educational material and a way to communicate, a generic cheap tablet with a custom OS and made-to-measure software is the best way forward. OLPC don't even have to supply the hardware.

Re:No shit (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754511)

Please show me the generic cheap tablets that were available when OLPC started (2005).

"Let them use Nokia 770's".

OLD news (3, Interesting)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about a year ago | (#44753811)

In the late 90's several African countries were going cellular only, outside of major cities.
This article is 15 years out of date.

One of my company's clients at the time was the Republic of the Congo.
Nothing like first hand knowledge.

Re:OLD news (5, Insightful)

x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) | about a year ago | (#44753891)

You're absolutely right. I live in Mozambique and people in the DEEP bush (read: rural areas) who live in houses made of mud or grass have cell phones are able to do simple banking even on old candy bar phones. Here in the capitol of Maputo, in the last year, smart phone and tablet use has exploded. Mozambique has 3 cell networks that offer 3G connectivity and one is talking up their 4G transition for next year. I think the intuition of the touch screen is being proven here as people who were raised without running water or power are able to pick up and use a smartphone while the same person struggles to a comical degree trying to understand and use with any semblance of efficacy a laptop or desktop PC.

Oh... Mozambique is the 3rd least developed country IN THE WORLD according to the UNDP [undp.org]
So yeah, this Les Cotrell is just a guy wanting to sound smart by explaining things about Africa to people who know nothing about Africa. This happened long ago.

Re:OLD news (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44754315)

What do those remote phones connect to? They have to have a wired infrastructure out to the access points. We can't even get good mobile service in rural US.

Re:OLD news (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754521)

What do those remote phones connect to? They have to have a wired infrastructure out to the access points. We can't even get good mobile service in rural US.

Nope, cell towers are often (almost always?) hooked up with microwave links,

Re:OLD news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754799)

Sierra Leone was going wireless, even before cellular was widely available in the first world. Think back to the mid-1980s. How many people had cellphones then?

Back then, a friend of mine worked on a project whose purpose was to build a wireless network connecting fixed phones, on the assumption that there would be one or two phones per village. The basic architecture was (what we nowadays would call) peer-to-peer, with the signal being relayed between neighbouring phones, whether or not the relaying phones were in use themselves at the time. The phones themselves were powered by batteries recharged by solar panels.

The whole thing worked, reasonably well as I understand it. But then, of course, the late 90s happened - cellphones suddenly became ubiquitous and dirt cheap, and nobody was interested in an architecture that combined the weaknesses and limitations of both fixed-line and cellular phones.

Doesn't know what he's talking about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753843)

So, its obvious that this guy isn't a cellular engineer, nor is he a satcom engineer. A huge contingent of the 2G and 3G base stations in Africa are connected via satellite. Satellite spectrum is not only expensive (VERY, VERY expensive) but it is scarcely available in that footprint. As for using LEO satellites, he apparently has no idea how LEO works. The only viable "high bandwidth" (low bandwidth by many cable-modem users opinion) option would be the constellation that O2B is planning. They only have one bird in orbit though. Beyond that, the earthstation costs for an O2B installation are in excess of $1M USD just for the tracking antennas, let alone the SSPAs, modems, etc. I just love it when people talk out their asses.

There was a slight glitch (1)

paiute (550198) | about a year ago | (#44753861)

Africa was indeed poised to leapfrog wired networks, but then they had to eat the frog.

I guess they don't take any history classes (-1)

holophrastic (221104) | about a year ago | (#44753885)

Apparently, their education sucks. If they think that wireless technology came after wired technology, they are very much mistaken. Perhaps they should focus on actually learning first.

Personally, I could care less just how ignorant they are. After all the help that we give to them, and the no help that they give to themselves, I'm really not surprised. Tell me again how much money it costs to send a child to school. Go ahead. Tell me how much it costs to have parents teach their children. Oh right, they don't teach their own children. They also live far away from school, and food, and water -- that's why we supply bicycles too. You'd think that after 50 years of the same commercials (oozing sores, flies, injuries, all during food-network shows) perhaps they'd have learned to live closer to water.

For those as stupid as they are: over-the-air television came before cable. radio came before itunes. But infrastructure is far more reliable than air, precisely because it's grounded -- literally. The dream is to have space elevators and tethers, again because rockets, cool as they are, aren't stable.

Maybe, just maybe, they've got many problems to solve on their own, long before they get "connected". Others have suggested quite a few.

Re:I guess they don't take any history classes (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44753951)

I'm glad that the amount you care is above minimum (I believe the phrase you are too ignorant to quote is "coundn't care less"). To address your ignorance further:
* The commercials for African charities are not representative of an entire fucking continent.
* Telegraph came before radio (which was initially called "wireless telegraph") and what the hell does itunes have to do with wireless vs wired?

Are you 10 years old? What idiot modded you up?

Did Africans invent or build any of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754093)

Thought not...

Re:Did Africans invent or build any of this? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#44754571)

Did you?

Thought not.

Re:Did Africans invent or build any of this? (1)

whydavid (2593831) | about a year ago | (#44754643)

I guess they didn't have time to get around to inventing wireless communications technology in between being the birthplace of civilization and being invaded and exploited by foreign powers. Shame on them, really.

That's not main NSA concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44754195)

Battle is going how to spy on Africa and countries that want invest there. Whether Africa has good Internet or not relevant to US sponsored agencies. It's about the money and natural resources.

Combine it (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year ago | (#44754503)

Just get the best from both worlds: wired low orbit satellites.
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