The mobile phone is more common than access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa

A DECADE after mobile phones began to spread in Africa, they have become commonplace even in the continent’s poorest countries. In 2016 two-fifths of people in sub-Saharan Africa had mobile phones. Their rapid spread has beaten all sorts of odds. In most African countries, less than half the population has access to electricity. In a third of those countries, less than a quarter does. Yet in much of the continent people with mobile phones outnumber those with electricity, never mind that many have to walk for miles to get a signal or recharge their phones’ batteries.

Mobile phones have transformed the lives of hundreds of millions for whom they were the first, and often the only, way to connect with the outside world. They have made it possible for poor countries to leapfrog much more than landline telephony. Mobile-money services, which enable people to send cash straight from their phones, have in effect created personal bank accounts that people can carry in their pockets. By one estimate, the M-Pesa mobile-money system alone lifted about 2% of Kenyan households out of poverty between 2008 and 2014. Technology cannot solve all of Africa’s problems, but it can help with many.

the Economist reports

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Kenya to launch mobile money interoperability in March 2018

Kenyans will now be able to transfer funds across networks, this comes after three of the country’s mobile money platforms Safaricom’s M-Pesa, Telkom money, and Airtel money went into an agreement which aims to bring down the cost of money transactions. The pilot phase of the platform was launched on Monday, 22 January 2018. The interoperability will be rolled out nationally in March 2018.

Kenya: Mobile money interoperability to launch in MarchInteroperability will also present consumers with choices of services and not being locked into one service or mobile network, given how costly it has been to transfer money between mobile money services.

According to Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru, once fully functional, it will improve efficiency, and likely increase competition.

“Mobile money users will be able to send and receive money across networks once the pilot window is over. The first phase of the pilot between Airtel Money and Safaricom’s Mpesa will start on Monday next week before Telkom Kenya’s mobile money system comes on board mid-February,” said Mucheru.

Safaricom’s M-PESA is the dominant service in Kenya’s mobile money ecosystem as it holds over 70% market share as per the latest report by the Communications Authority of Kenya.

“What this means is that when you send money from one network to another, that money goes straight into your wallet. As you know at the moment, when you send money across networks, you receive an SMS and you have to go cash it, and you can’t easily use it,” said Mucheru.

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The Coming Key to Technology’s Future Via 5G

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is driving tens of thousands of techies to Las Vegas this week to get their hands on the latest in cutting-edge gadgets, robots and vehicles, some of which are likely still years ahead of their time.

An attendee photographs a 5G logo display during a Qualcomm press event for CES 2018 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on January 8, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Concept models and products that may never reach the consumer marketplace – at least in their current forms – are hardly new to CES expos. But in 2018, many CES-showcased ideas that in recent years would have been considered works in progress are appearing more practical, thanks to an imminent leap forward in their underlying telecom technology.

Enhanced virtual-reality capabilities, digitally integrated infrastructure and transportation systems, and “smart” manufacturing – items and ideas all considered a ways off as recently as two or three years ago – stand to benefit immensely from the advent of 5G connectivity, which the world is likely to see as soon as this year.

“This technology is going to offer new types of services that were not possible before, but also reduces the cost,” Matt Grob, executive vice president of technology for Qualcomm Technologies, said Monday during a 5G-focused panel discussion at CES. “The demand is really clear.”

5G – the fifth generation of wireless connectivity – will, at a basic level, allow consumers to download things significantly faster on compatible devices. When 4G rolled out in 2009, it allowed consumers to download at a speed of about 100 megabits per second. In other words, a person would be able to download the two-hour-long movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” in about six minutes, according to the Consumer Technology Association. Read more

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Tech and media giants ready to scramble for the 5G future

With super-fast 5G wireless data service on the horizon for everything from cell phones to networked cars and devices, service providers and equipment makers alike are angling for their piece of a vast market.

Once the next-generation transmission standards make their debut, consumption of video content will jump even more with the proliferation of mobile devices, John Martin, CEO of Turner Broadcasting System, told an audience at the CES technology trade expo here Wednesday.

The premium television unit of American entertainment conglomerate Time Warner has seen a sizable number of its customers defect to online streaming services such as Netflix in recent years. But the dawn of 5G service, the company believes, could help it regain control of the content market.

Cell service provider AT&T is angling to acquire Time Warner, bringing together media production and transmission under the same banner. The 5G network, which AT&T plans to roll out in at least 10 U.S. markets by the latter half of 2018, will make Time Warner’s content far more accessible to mobile users: A two-hour film that takes six minutes to download over 4G will take just 3.6 seconds over 5G. This speed will even enable users to obtain huge virtual reality video files on the go.

Rival carrier Verizon Wireless is also working to bring 5G service to market.

Everything online

The advantages of 5G speed go well beyond fast downloads. Once the service arrives, “everything is going to be wireless,” said Cristiano Amon, president of U.S. telecommunications equipment maker Qualcomm. Faster networks will play a critical role in self-driving cars, for example, letting vehicles upload running data to the cloud on the fly.

Qualcomm has enjoyed rapid growth in the past thanks to a strong presence in smartphone chips. But the pace of growth is slackening as the smartphone market matures and upstarts such as Nvidia, specializing in artificial intelligence chips, jump into the fray. Putting its 5G technologies in devices other than smartphones could help Qualcomm recoup, the company believes.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, meanwhile, has announced it is working with American subsidiary Harman on connected automotive devices relying on 5G transmission. Israel’s Phantom Auto has demonstrated a remote-controlled car on public roads in anticipation of the technology.

A fast mobile data link could also be used to pilot robots into places inhospitable to humans, such as the site of a nuclear accident. Sweden’s Ericsson is testing remote-control manufacturing robots in partnership with two Italian robotics outfits.

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