Hulk smash! 8ta’s “Go Big” data special unpacked

South Africa’s newest mobile network operator, 8ta, has taken the wraps off the data promotion it plans to launch on Sunday, 26 June 2011, at an event held in its flagship store in Maponya Mall, Soweto.

8ta’s “Go Big” promotion (which abbreviates to GB, interestingly) comes in two variants:

  1. 10GB per month for R199, and
  2. 10GB + 10GB to use between midnight and 05h00 for R299 per month.

Both offers are only available on 24 month contracts and exclude 3G modems.

Managing executive for 8ta, Amith Maharaj, said that customers could use their own modems or buy one from 8ta when signing up. Their 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps) USB modems cost R349 and a 21 Mbps USB modem from 8ta will cost R699, Maharaj said.

Amith Maharaj
Amith Maharaj

The 8ta stores will also be able to flash any old modem with new firmware should that be necessary (due to network locking on old devices, or other reasons), Maharaj said.

Earlier this week, 8ta held an event in Centurion where they showcased their network, revealing that they would be switching users over to 21 Mbps within the next week.

Network performance

Local download speeds ranged between 6.7Mbps and 10.7Mbps, with one speed test to MyBroadband’s Johannesburg server peaking at 18.31Mbps. Local upload speeds ranged between 1Mbps and 3.5Mbps.

International speeds to a London based speed test server showed download results of between 7.5Mbps and 11Mbps with uplink speeds of just over 1Mbps.

Latency was particularly impressive, often dipping below 50ms for local speed tests. International latency to London ranged between 250ms and 300ms.

Despite the good local latency results, executive for converged data networks at Telkom Mobile, Zoltan Miklos, said that they’re working on further improving their latencies to local servers.

The good latencies to London-based servers come from the large amount of international capacity 8ta has procured via SAIX, Miklos said.

Miklos went on to explain that even though 8ta is “powered by Telkom,” they get treated just like any other operator. They buy capacity and log faults just like any other operator would, Miklos said.

Network coverage

Brett Nash
Brett Nash

In addition to unveiling its “Go Big” offer (which Maharaj said was called Project Hulk internally), 8ta also launched a coverage map that shows only where their own network reaches. It is Google Maps based and available on the 8ta website.

Telkom’s National RAN Executive, Brett Nash, said that Telkom has already built 1,200 sites in mainly metropolitan areas, of which 942 sites are ‘on air’.

Nash said that another 800 towers will be built over the next nine months, with a total of 3,500 to 3,600 towers planned by 2015.

8ta has struck deals with billboard owners to be able to place antennas and base station equipment on the advertising boards.

Since these billboards have already had to get the relevant environmental clearance to be placed, 8ta said they were able to deploy these sites without needing to conduct time-consuming environmental impact assessments.

According to Nash, 8ta has an inherent disadvantage as they don’t have access to any 900 Megahertz (MHz) spectrum and have designed the density of their sites for running on 1,800 MHz.

The lower frequency spectrum (900 MHz) allows for signals to propagate further, meaning a single tower can create a much larger cell.

However, each cell can only serve a certain number of subscribers, so too great a range in densely populated areas may actually cause a problem.

Nash said that as a result of their lack of 900 MHz spectrum, 8ta has more capacity per square kilometre in certain metros than other mobile operators.

Limited offer

It is understood that the promotion was originally planned as a 6GB offer (with 6GB “Midnight Surfer” data), but 8ta thought that this just wouldn’t be good enough.

Maharaj stressed on a few occasions during the presentation that “Project Hulk”, or the “Go Big” offer, is purely promotional and would be running for a limited time.

However, it wouldn’t run for shorter than two weeks, Maharaj was willing to confirm.

8ta billboard masts

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Hulk smash! 8ta’s “Go Big” data special unpacked