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Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts

Friday, 7 June 2013

3GPP Public Safety focus in Rel-12


Public Safety is still a hot topic in the standards discussion and on this blog as well. Two recent posts containing presentations have been viewed and downloaded like hotcakes. See here and here.

3GPP presented on this topic in the Critical Communications World that took place last month. The following is from the 3GPP press release:

The ’Critical Communications World’ conference, held recently in Paris, has focused largely on the case for LTE standardized equipment to bring broadband access to professional users, by meeting their high demands for reliability and resilience.
Balazs Bertenyi, the 3GPP SA Chair, reported on the latest status of the first 3GPP features for public safety, in particular those covering Proximity services (Direct mode) and Group call. He spoke of the need to strike a balance between more or less customisation, to make use of commercial products while meeting the specific requirements for Public Protection and Disaster Relief (PPDR).
To ensure that these needs are met, Balazs Bertenyi called for the wholehearted participation of the critical communications community in 3GPP groups, by sending the right people to address the technical questions and obstacles that arise during the creation of work items.

A presentation and video from that event is embedded below:




For more details see here.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Opportunities for reshaping the future of your industry?

Another one from FWIC



You can also view the webcast here.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Real Life Pictures of Small Cells Deployments in London

Visitors of this blog seemed to like the last set of deployment pictures I put up. As a result here is another set of pictures from the same Telefonica presentation by Robert Joyce. See also my earlier post on the same topic here.













Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Mobile Payments to be mainstream in 2011

With some much talk (and hype) surrounding NFC and Mobile payments, it looks quite possible that m-payments will enter mainstream in the Western world in the forthcoming year. Though mobile payments have become norm in developing countries like Kenya, Senegal and India, its yet to catch on in UK and the USA.

Here are some interesting facts from MobileBeyond:
  • The mobile transaction market is so huge it offers room for multiple players. Yearly worldwide electronic transactions total $7-$10 TRILLION
  • Competitors are generally local to each country or region leaving plenty of open territory for mobile payment service and technology companies. Companies that win in their markets will be those that understand customer needs.
  • PayPal in the U.S., which has traditionally catered to merchant accounts, most likely will adopt a similar mobile strategy. (Both Obopay and PayPal are service providers–not technology companies like Fundamo in South Africa that provides software solutions for service companies.)
  • “The competition is cash”–not the other players in this market space
  • In five to ten years, mobile payments will achieve high adoption among consumers in developing and developed countries.
  • Brazil, Russia, China and Mexico offer growth opportunities for players that understand these markets
  • According to Portio Research, by 2011 mobile commerce payments are estimated to climb to $86.6 billion
  • Nielsen predicts 27% of all U.S. payments by 2012 will still be cash
To get an idea, there are already multiple m-payments providers in Kenya. Leaving out the gians like Google and Paypal, there are other local providers like M-pesa, Pay-Zunguka, Pesapal and Zynde.

The following are the developments in UK from Computer weekly:

Some forms of mobile payments already exist. Phone applications like PayPal Mobile support person-to-person (P2P) payments. SMS-based transactions are used for car parking tickets and mobile commerce allows online shopping through mobile phone browsers.

Contactless cards are also in circulation for credit cards, transport tickets and are used in some food stores. The industry is looking next at near-field communication (NFC) mobile handsets. NFC allows 'tap-and-go' style payments using mobile phones at in-store terminals by incorporating contactless card technology into handsets. Alternatively, micro-SD cards with NFC-enabled chips can be inserted into mobile phones.

The Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA) has launched a Pay-Buy-Mobile project to enable consumers to pay for goods and services via their mobile phones. "By storing a consumer's credit or debit card within the SIM card and employing NFC technology, the mobile phone can be passed near a contactless Point Of Sale (POS) terminal to complete transactions," said Nav Bains, GSMA's senior director of mobile money.

GSMA has been collaborating with standardisation bodies; the European Payments Council, EMVCo, which manages card specifications and smartcard infrastructure standards body, Global Platform. The consortium is developing the Trusted Service Manager requirements document and a certification process to accelerate the commercialisation of mobile NFC services. But some experts believe NFC is a long way from a mass market roll-out in the UK.

The biggest breakthrough in the mobile payment market have been in developing countries, providing bank services via mobile phones for people who have traditionally not had bank accounts. Visa Europe recently launched Europe's first micro-SD based mobile payment systems in Turkey. But it is unclear when such a system will be introduced in the UK. says Juniper Research senior analyst, Howard Wilcox.

The number of contactless terminals in the UK is approximately 26,500 and the UK Card Association predict 14 million contactless cards will have been issued with contactless functionality by the end of 2010. "We're not expecting to give a launch date any time soon," continues Swain. "Globally, there's a lot of discussion but the UK is one of the only areas where we already have the infrastructure that would accept contactless mobile payments," he adds.
UK-based mobile banking firm, Monitise, has also recently launched a joint venture with Visa in India to accelerate the delivery of mobile financial services such as banking, bill payments, mass transit ticketing and mobile top-up to Indian customers. More than infrastructure, Monitise group strategy director, Richard Johnson, believes banks and mobile network operators need to work together. "Banks are where most people keep their money. It's about mobilising bank accounts rather than creating new accounts with network operators. Tap-and-go really requires collaboration," he says.


Industry expert consortium, Mobey Forum, hopes to bring banks, mobile network operators, acquirers and merchants together to build the relationships needed to progress the mobile payments industry.

Gerhard Romen, Mobey Forum marketing chair and director of mobile financial services at Nokia, believes the NFC trials have proved the consumer demand and, by 2011, all of Nokia's new smartphones will be NFC-enabled. "Once people work together, it'll provide simplicity for the user" he says. "A phone with NFC can do more than just behave like a card - it has a display, keyboard and internet connection - and becomes more interactive," he adds.

Today we have credit, debit and, perhaps, contactless cards. Tomorrow banks and mobile network operators hope to provide a mobile wallet. The next step will be introducing tap-and-go into the mainstream market and, despite slow progress, industry experts are increasingly certain it will happen "soon".

From eWeek:

Google and Apple are both making moves to ensure smooth financial transactions on their mobile platforms.

Last week news bubbled up that Google and PayPal were brokering a deal to let the search engine use the e-commerce service as a payment option for applications purchased through Google's Android Market.

Apple, meanwhile, hired an expert in near field communication (NFC) technology as its new product manager for mobile commerce and has published a number of NFC-related patents in recent months.

Google's e-commerce infrastructure is poor compared with that of Apple. Users may only purchase applications for their Android smartphones from the Android Market in 13 countries.

By way of comparison, consumers may purchase apps from iPhone's App Store in 90 countries all over the world. PayPal would be a welcome addition to Google Checkout and credit cards as payment options in the Android Market.

Gartner has said the market for mobile apps will be $6.2 billion this year, making it an obvious sector for Google and Apple to attack with gusto.

From San Fansisco Chronicle:

Bay Area businesses like Bling Nation and eBay Inc.'s PayPal division are rolling out products that allow people to hand over money to stores, restaurants, coffee shops or friends with the tap of a mobile device. No credit cards, checks or cash are necessary.

Meanwhile, reports suggest that other major companies, including Apple Inc., AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless are planning or negotiating to provide similar services.

"What I see is all these distinct initiatives coming together and merging at some point in the not-too-distant future," said Aaron McPherson, practice director at IDC Financial Insights. "All together, they add up to significant change."

Bling Nation, a Palo Alto startup founded in 2007, is among the furthest along in this emerging field, with more than 1,000 retailers nationwide accepting its payment system. The company provides so-called Bling tags, or small stickers, that affix to the back of a mobile phone and transmit data using a wireless standard known as Near Field Communication.

When users tap the tag on a proprietary reader at participating retailers, it pulls money from their PayPal account. For security, users have to enter a personal identification number for purchases over a certain amount, or when transactions occur at an unusual frequency or location.

Merchants pay for or rent the reader and are charged 1.5 percent of the total of every transaction, which is well below the average transaction rate for accepting credit cards. The additional advantage for merchants is that they can analyze customer data in a more fine-grained manner than is permitted through the credit card system. This allows them, for instance, to target sales offers to regular customers or those who haven't been into the shop in a while.

"They enjoy cheaper fees and analytics that can help them issue coupons and make more money," said co-founder Meyer Malka, adding that the advantages are turning businesses into proselytizers on Bling's behalf.

A little more than a month ago, the company began an aggressive push in partnership with PayPal to expand its footprint in downtown Palo Alto. It included giving away thousands of tags preloaded with $20 in credit to customers. There are now more than 50 retailers in the city accepting the payments.

As I mentioned last week, with heavyweights like Nokia, Apple and Google all coming closer to NFC and M-Payments, it should be a winning formula for the end consumers. We will possibly see more use of m-payments in the developed world. Lets not mention about security just yet.

Friday, 29 January 2010

HSPA+ rollout updates, Jan 2010

It has been predicted that the growth of HSPA+ broadband across Europe is set to soar with the total number of subscribers set to nearly double across Europe in 2011.

A new report has predicted that by 2011 the growth of HSPA+ broadband across key European markets will soar, and could almost double compared to 2009. The number of subscribers is set to soar from twenty two million in 2009 to around forty three million in 2011. The report was released by CCS Insight.

According to the report HSPA+ broadband will be a major factor in seeing growth of one hundred percent in the to five major European markets. The report goes on to state that the European mobile broadband market will enjoy seeing both subscriber and revenue numbers double by 2011. Revenues are set to increase from around six billion Euros in 2009 to around eleven billion Euros in 2011.

Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer at the GSMA, said: “It is clear from this report that with the right network investment, European mobile network operators will see significant growth in mobile broadband adoption in the next two years. HSPA technology will drive this rapid uptake across Europe as mobile operators and their customers continue to benefit from its expanding, vibrant and competitive ecosystem.”


HSPA+ was generally the most efficient way of upgrading use of bandwidth already in use and was likely to dominate in the short term at least, with an estimated 1.4 billion subscribers worldwide by 2013, around ten times the estimated take-up of LTE.

HSPA+ release 7, which became available last year, uses MIMO technology like that in 11n Wifi to help take the peak downlink throughput to 28Mbps, with 11Mbps on the uplink. Release 8, for which chipsets will become available this year, aggregates two carrier signals to bring peak data rates to 42Mbps on the downlink.

Release 9 will put two MIMO streams on each of two 5MHz carriers, aggregated to produce a 10MHz data pipe delivering 84Mbps on the downlink; the uplink uses simple aggregation to 23Mbps. A projected Release 10 would bring the peak downlink speed to 168Mbps, though this would require 20MHz carriers only available in the 2.5GHz and 2.6GHz bands.

Novatel Wireless, a developer of wireless data cards and other devices, said that it has added support for dual-carrier HSPA+ networks. The firm said it is using Qualcomm's MDM8220 chipset for the support, and will launch commercial devices in the second half of 2010 based on the chipset. Novatel said the new support will add more advanced data capability and other features to its offerings. Dual Carrier HSPA+ networks are expected to provide higher throughput to wireless data devices, and also helps address better service for cell phone users.

The new modem can receive data at up to 42M bps (bits per second) in compatible 3G networks. To increase the theoretical maximum download speed of the modem from 21M bps to 42M bps, Novatel uses two carrier frequencies instead of the usual one, a technique called dual-carrier. But it will only deliver the higher speed on networks that also support the technique.

Users can expect peak speeds at up to 30M bps, according to Hans Beijner, marketing manager for radio products at Ericsson.Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner, is a more pessimistic, saying increased traffic on the networks could negatively impact speeds. "I think it will be difficult to get above 20M bps," he said.

Sixty-six operators have said they plan to use HSPA Evolution, and so far 37 networks have been commercially launched, according to statistics from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

However, the version of HSPA Evolution that supports 42M bps is still very much in its infancy. Last week, mobile operator 3 Scandinavia announced plans to launch services when modems become available. In December, representatives from Vodafone and the Australian operator Telstra visited Ericsson to Stockholm to view a demonstration, but neither operator has so far announced plans to launch commercial services.

Ericsson and 3 Scandinavia have unveiled plans to roll-out a worlds-first 84Mbps HSPA+ wireless network. The initial rollout will cover Denmark and four Swedish cities. HSPA+ networks that currently operate in Canada, for example, offer speeds of up to 21Mbps depending on conditions. In the United States, T-Mobile recently announced a similar planned network.

Real-world tests of the 21Mbps networks show the services achieving around 7Mbps speed. If a similar performance could be applied to the new Ericsson/3 network, it could result in speeds of roughly 28Mbps at realistic distances and network load.

and 3 will also deploy 900MHz 3G networks in Sweden in a bid to boost coverage in remote areas, as existing higher frequency networks have left some users with poor performance.
The high-speed services will hit Denmark and areas of Sweden this winter if all goes to plan.

China Unicom is putting the finishing touch on the tests on its HSPA+ networks in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai, which were kicked off in October 2009 by partnering with its three major suppliers Huawei Technologies, ZTE, and Ericsson.

HSPA+ is the next generation technology for China Unicom's WCDMA 3G service. HSPA+, also known as Evolved High-Speed Packet Access, is a wireless broadband standard defined in 3GPP release 7. The HSPA+ network claims with a transmission speed of 21Mbps, 1.5 times faster than its current 3G network.

The outdoor average speed of the networks built up by Ericsson and Huawei reach up to 16.5Mbps and 18.5Mbps on the downlink, 50% higher than that of the existing HSPA network. That means you can download a song within two or three seconds.

Cell C, South Africa, has signed a US$378m deal with the Chinese telecom equipment provider ZTE Corporation. Cell C would ever lead the industry as far as network infrastructure is concerned but it is a fact that Cell C will be the first South African operator to roll out HSPA+ technologies incorporating download speeds of up to 21Mbit/s – three times faster than anything currently available.

According to Cell C an important factor in the decision to appoint ZTE is its ability to offer 4G services using Cell C’s 900MHz frequency band which offers wider and deeper coverage than existing 2100 MHz networks, enabling cost effective deployment to rural as well as metropolitan areas.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Mobile Phones transforming Africa

Interesting article from The Guardian:

The mobile phone is turning into Africa's silver bullet. Bone-rattling roads, inaccessible internet, unavailable banks, unaffordable teachers, unmet medical need – applications designed to bridge one or more of these gaps are beginning to transform the lives of millions of Africans, and Asians, often in a way that, rather than relying on international aid, promotes small-scale entrepreneurship.

While access to a fixed landline has remained static for a decade, access to a mobile phone in Africa has soared fivefold in the past five years. Here, in one of the poorest parts of the globe, nearly one in three people can make or receive a phone call. In Uganda, almost one in four has their own handset and far more can reach a "village phone", an early and successful microfinance initiative supported by the Grameen foundation.

One recent piece of research revealed how phone sharing, and the facility for phone charging, has been an engine of this small-business revolution. Particularly in rural areas, a small investment in a phone can first create a business opportunity, then maximise its reach by overcoming the possible limitations of real or technological illiteracy – because the phone operator can make sure the call gets through, and can cut off the call at exactly the right moment to avoid wasting any part of a unit. And what a difference a phone call can make.

Often the mere fact of being able to speak to someone too far away to meet with easily can be a transforming experience. For fishermen deciding which market is best for their catch, or what the market wants them to fish for, a phone call makes the difference between a good return on the right catch or having to throw away the profit, and the fish, from a wrong catch. For smallholders trying to decide when or where to sell, a single phone call can be an equally profitable experience.

But establishing market conditions is just the start. Uganda has pioneered cash transfers by phone through the innovative Me2U airtime sharing service, which allows a client to pay in cash where they are and transmit it by phone to family or a business associate hundreds of miles away. They receive a unique code that they can take to a local payment outlet to turn into cash.

But the market leaders are M-PESA, a mobile money system set up by Safaricom, in its turn an affiliate of Vodafone, in Kenya (although it operates in Uganda now too). Less than three years old, it has 7 million customers and, according to some sources, processes as much as 10% of Kenya's GDP.

At a recent International Telecommunications Union session, Nokia's Teppo Paavola pointed out that there are 4 billion mobile phone users and only 1.6 billion bank accounts. The huge scope for providing financial services through mobile phones represented by that differential is a tempting prospect for the big players.

But, as one British contender, Masabi, has discovered, it is one thing to develop a secure mobile payment system like their Street Vendor - which works on old handsets and in most scripts – and quite another to get a deal with the international financial regulators that police cross-border cash flows.

Masabi has worked with another UK company, Kiwanja.net, that aims to help NGOs and other not-for-profit organisations use mobile technology.

Ken Banks, founder of Kiwanja.net (Kiwanja means "earth" in Swahili) has pioneered a two-way texting system called FrontlineSMS that allows mass texting from a single computer-based source to which individual subscribers can reply.

So for example, health workers attached to a hospital in Malawi can "talk" to their base to seek advice, pass on news of patients' progress or ask for drug supplies. The data can be centrally collected and managed. All that's needed is a mobile signal – far more available than an internet connection.

FrontlineSMS is a free download: the aim is not to tell users what to do, but to help them work out how to apply the technology to their own problem.

The only barrier to even greater mobile use, apart from international financial regulations, are the taxes levied by national governments that can make the cost prohibitive. According to one recent report, despite exponential growth in countries like Uganda there is growing evidence that what for millions is a life-changing technology risks leaving out the poorest.


Monday, 26 October 2009

African Mobile Market grows 550% in 5 years



Africans are buying mobile phones at a world record rate, with take-up soaring by 550% in five years, research shows.

"The mobile phone revolution continues," says a UN report charting the phenomenon that has transformed commerce, healthcare and social lives across the planet. Mobile subscriptions in Africa rose from 54m to almost 350m between 2003 and 2008, the quickest growth in the world. The global total reached 4bn at the end of last year and, although growth was down on the previous year, it remained close to 20%.

On average there are now 60 mobile subscriptions for every 100 people in the world. In developing countries, the figure stands at 48 – more than eight times the level of penetration in 2000.

In Africa, average penetration stands at more than a third of the population, and in north Africa it is almost two-thirds. Gabon, the Seychelles and South Africa now boast almost 100% penetration. Only five African countries – Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia – still have a penetration of less than 10 per 100 inhabitants.

Uganda, the first African country to have more mobiles than fixed telephones, is cited as an example of cultural and economic transformation. Penetration has risen from 0.2% in 1995 to 23% in 2008, with operators making huge investments in infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. Given their low incomes, only about a quarter of Ugandans have a mobile subscription, but street vendors offer mobile access on a per-call basis. They also invite those without access to electricity to charge their phones using car batteries.

Popular mobile services include money transfers, allowing people without bank accounts to send money by text message. Many farmers use mobiles to trade and check market prices.

The share of the population covered by a mobile signal stood at 76% in developing countries in 2006, including 61% in rural areas. In sub-Saharan Africa, closer to half the population was covered, including 42% in rural areas.

At the end of 2007, there were eight times as many mobile phones as fixed lines in the least developed countries. The number of fixed lines in the world has essentially been frozen around 1.2bn since 2006 and saw a slight decline in 2008.

But a "digital divide" persists in terms of internet access. Australia, a country with 21 million inhabitants, has more broadband subscribers than the whole of Africa. There is also a huge gap in terms of broadband speed. The report warns: "Urgent attention is needed to address this situation and bring the continent more meaningfully online."

Other developing regions often boast a broadband penetration 10 times higher than in Africa, where Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia account for 90% of all subscriptions. Broadband access in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic and Swaziland is the most expensive in the world, costing more than $1,300 (£780) a month.

The report also found that at the end of 2008 there were an estimated 1.4bn internet users around the world. The growth rate of 15% was slightly lower than in 2007. In developing countries, the number of users grew by a quarter and such countries now account for more than half the world's internet users. But while more than half of the developed world population is now online, the corresponding share is only 15% in developing economies and 17% in "transition" economies.

China hosted the biggest number of users (298 million), followed by the United States (191 million) and Japan (88 million). A little over one fifth of the world's population used the internet in 2008.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Beyond Voice: New uses for mobile phones could launch another wave of development

The Economist recently published a special report on Telecoms in Emerging markets which is available here. The following is an extract from that.

In a field just outside the village of Bumwambu in eastern Uganda, surrounded by banana trees and cassava, with chickens running between the mudbrick houses, Frederick Makawa is thinking about tomatoes. It is late June and the rainy season is coming to an end. Tomatoes are a valuable cash crop during the coming dry season and Mr Makawa wants to plant his seedlings as soon as possible. But Uganda’s traditional growing seasons are shifting, so he is worried about droughts or cash foods that could destroy his crop. Michael Gizamba, a local villagephone operator, offers to help using Farmer’s Friend, an agricultural information service. He sends a text message to ask for a seasonal weather forecast for the region. Before long a reply arrives to say that normal, moderate rainfall is expected during July. Mr Makawa decides to plant his tomatoes.

The Farmer’s Friend service accepts text message queries such as "rice aphids", "tomato blight" or "how to plant bananas" and dispenses relevant advice from a database compiled by local partners. More complicated questions ("my chicken’s eyes are bulging") are relayed to human experts, who either call back within 15 minutes or, with particularly diffcult problems, promise to provide an answer within four days. These answers are then used to improve the database.

Farmer’s Friend is one of a range of phone based services launched in June by MTN, Google and the Grameen Foundation’s "Application Laboratory", or AppLab. As well as disseminating advice in agriculture, provided by the Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative, the new services also provide health and market information. The Clinic Finder service points people to nearby clinics, and the Health Tips service explains the symptoms of common diseases.

Lastly there is Google Trader, a textbased system that matches buyers and sellers of agricultural produce and commodities. Sellers send a message to say where they are and what they have to offer, which will be available to potential buyers within 30km for seven days. Mr Makawa says his father used the service to look for a buyer for some pigs, which he sold to pay school fees. These services cost 110 shillings ($0.05) a time, the same as a standard text message, except for Google Trader, which costs double that. In their first five weeks the services received a total of more than 1m queries.

As with the Village Phone project, Grameen is trying to establish a model that can be scaled up and replicated in other countries. Offering agricultural and health information is more diffcult than offering a phone service, however, because such information must be localised and must take cultural di?erences into account.

Grameen’s collaboration with MTN and Google in Uganda is just one of dozens of services across the developing world that offer agricultural, market and health information via mobile phones. In India, for example, farmers can sign up for Reuters Market Lite, a textbased service that is available in parts of India. Its 125,000 users pay 200 rupees ($4.20) for a threemonth subscription, which provides them with local weather and price information four or five times a day. Many farmers say that their profits have gone up as a result.

Tata Consultancy Services, an Indian operator, offers a service called mKrishi which is similar to Farmer’s Friend, allowing farmers to send queries and receive personalised advice. "The rural population is willing to pay substantial subscription fees to get this information multiple times a day", says Kunal Bajaj of BDA. There have been lots of pilot schemes in the past, he says, but commercial offerings are now beginning to gain ground.

Nokia, the world’s largest handsetmaker, launched its own information service, Nokia Life Tools, in India in June. In addition to education and entertainment, it provides agricultural information, such as prices, weather data and farming tips, that can be called up from special menus on some Nokia handsets. The basic service costs 30 rupees a month, and a premium service which provides detailed local crop prices in ten states is available at twice that price. "It is in its early stages, but it has resonated extremely well with its target audience," says OlliPekka Kallasvuo, Nokia’s chief executive.

Services to help farmers have been most widely adopted in China, where China Mobile offers a service called Nong Xin Tong in conjunction with the agriculture ministry, as part of its push into rural areas. It has already signed up 50m users and is aiming for 100m within three years. The service provides news, weather information and details of farming related government policies.

China Mobile also runs a website, 12582.com, that sends farmers information about planting techniques, pest management and market prices. The service, which costs two yuan ($0.30) a month, sends out 13m text messages a day and has over 40m users. There are dozens of other examples across the developing world.

TradeNet, launched in Ghana in 2005, now links buyers and sellers of agricultural products in nine African countries; CellBazaar provides a textbased classified ads service in Bangladesh.
Mobile phones are also being used in health care. Oneway text alerts, sent to everyone in a particular area, can be used to raise awareness of HIV; sending daily text messages to patients can help them remember to take their drugs for tuberculosis or HIV. Mobile phones can be used to gather health information in the field faster and more accurately than paper records and help with the management of drug stocks. Cameraphones are used to send pictures to remote specialists for diagnosis.

Quantifying the benefits of agricultural and health services is hard, and such services are still in their early days in much of the world. The mobile service that is delivering the most obvious economic benefits is money transfer, otherwise known as mobile banking (though for technical and regulatory reasons it is not, strictly speaking, banking). It has grown out of the widespread custom of using prepaid calling credit as an informal currency.

Suppose you want to send money from the city back to your family in the country. You could travel to the village and deliver I’m not selling for that the cash in person, but that takes time and money. Or you could ask an intermediary, such as a bus driver, to deliver the money, but that can be risky. More simply, you could buy a topup voucher for the amount you want to transfer (say, $10) and then call the villagephone operator or shopkeeper in your family’s village and read out the code on the voucher. The credit will be applied to the phone of the shopkeeper, who will hand cash to your family, minus a commission of 10-20%. In some countries, where airtime can be transferred directly from one phone to another by text message, the process is even simpler: load credit onto your phone, then send it to someone on the spot who in return gives cash to your intended recipient.

These methods became so widespread that some companies decided to set up mobile payment systems that allow real money, rather than just airtime, to be transferred from one user to another by phone. Once you have signed up, you pay money into the system by handing cash to an agent (usually a mobile operator’s airtime vendor), who credits the money to your mobilemoney account. You can withdraw money by visiting another agent, who checks that you have su?cient funds before debiting your account and handing over the cash.

You can also send money to other people, who will be sent a text message containing a special code that can be taken to an agent to withdraw cash. This allows cash to be sent from one place to another quickly and easily. The biggest successes in this field so far have been Gcash and Smart Money in the Philippines, Wizzit in South Africa, Celpay in Zambia and, above all, MPESA in Kenya, which has become the most widely adopted mobile money scheme in the world.

Launched in 2007 by Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile operator, it now has nearly 7m users. Not bad for a country of 38m people, 18.3m of whom have mobile phones. MPESA’s early adopters were young, male urban migrants who used it to send money home to their families in the country. But it has since become wildly popular and is used to pay for everything from school fees to taxis (drivers like it because it means they are carrying less cash around). Roughly $2m is transferred through the system each day, with an average amount of $20. ?In markets in Kenya, stallholders are happy to take MPESA payments.

"It’s pretty dramatic," says Bob Christen, head of the "Financial Services for the Poor" initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

MTN’s launch of a mobile money service in Uganda in March 2009, in partnership with Stanbic Bank, provides further cause for optimism. MTN backed up its launch with a huge marketing campaign based around the simple idea of sending money home, as Safaricom had previously done in Kenya. After three months 60% of the population had heard of the service, a level of awareness that MPESA took a year to achieve, according to MTN. After four months the service had signed up 82,000 users. Of the $5.1m transferred in that period, half was in the fourth month, indicating a rapid take-off. MTN plans to increase the number of outlets that can handle mobile money to 5,000 by early 2010. MTN’s apparent success in Uganda seems to suggest that Kenya may not be a one-off after all. After fine-tuning its technology and procedures in Uganda, MTN plans to introduce the service in 20 other African and Middle Eastern countries; it has already launched in Ghana. Meanwhile Zain, which operates in several African markets, has started its own mobilemoney service, called Zap. According to CGAP, there will be over 120 mobilemoney schemes in developing countries by the end of 2009, more than double the number in 2008. By 2012, it predicts, some 1.7 billion people will have a mobile phone but no bank account, and 20% of them will be using mobile money.

Operators do not expect to make much money from mobile banking, says Mr Okoudjou, but it can help keep customers from defecting to rivals and cut costs by allowing people to top up their airtime directly on their phones, as well as providing wider social and economic benefits that reflect well on operators. Most importantly, he says, mobile banking can help the industry repeat the huge impact made when mobile phones were first introduced. "This is a second wave that can unleash the potential of mobile phones again," he says. "So we need to do this, and we need to do it properly, and we need to do it all over."

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Kenya gets Solar Charged Phones



Kenya is home to at least 17 million mobile-phone customers, but only one million have regular access to electricity, making it difficult to recharge a mobile phone.


But the first solar-powered handset could change Kenya's telecommunication industry.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

More than half the world now uses mobile phones

A UN report this week showed that more than half the global population now pay to use one.

The survey, by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the UN, also found that nearly a quarter of the world's 6.7 billion people use the internet.

But it is the breathtaking growth of cellular technology that is doing more to change society, particularly in developing countries where a lack of effective communications infrastructure has traditionally been one of the biggest obstacles to economic growth.

By the end of last year there were an estimated 4.1bn mobile subscriptions, up from 1bn in 2002. That represents six in 10 of the world's population, although it is hard to make a precise calculation about how many people actually use mobile phones.

Africa is the continent with the fastest growth, where penetration has soared from just one in 50 people at the turn of the century to 28%.

Much of the take-up is thought to have been driven by money transfer services that allow people without bank accounts to send money speedily and safely by text messages, which the recipient - typically a family member - can cash in at the other end. Vodafone's M-Pesa money transfer service was launched in Kenya in 2007 and now has 5 million users.

The ITU report points to the Gambia, where mobile subscriptions have rocketed amid stiff competition among mobile operators. Out of almost a million telephone subscribers, there are more than 800,000 mobile subscriptions but only about 50,000 fixed telephone lines in service.
Developing countries now account for about two-thirds of the mobile phones in use, compared with less than half of subscriptions in 2002.

The adoption of mobile technology has outstripped the growth of fixed-line connections, which rose from 1bn to 1.3bn over the same period, with market penetration stuck just below 20% for some years.

The figures demonstrate that many people in the developing world are bypassing the older technology altogether.

In the developed world, many people use more than one mobile device, with subscriptions exceeding population by 11% in Europe.

On the other hand, a single mobile phone may have several users in poorer countries, where handsets are sometimes shared or rented out by their owners.
The report also recorded a marked increase in internet use, which more than doubled from 11% of people using the net in 2002 to 23% last year.

Here the report identified a clear gap between the rich and poor world: fewer than one in 20 Africans went online in 2007, for instance, and less than 15% in Asia, whereas Europe and the Americas recorded penetration of 43% and 44% respectively.

Across the world just 5% of people have broadband internet at home, although this rises to 20% in the developed world.

Sweden was the world's most advanced country in the use of information and communications technology, in an index of 154 countries that took various factors into account such as access to computers and literacy levels.

South Korea and Denmark were placed second and third in the list, while the UK was ranked 10th.

Mobile phones have changed Congo irrevocably, especially Goma. The country has only about 20,000 land lines after the system collapsed under Mobutu Sese Seko's ruinous dictatorship.

Now traders shipping imports to distant towns, farmers sending produce to the main cities, and those involved in the thriving gold and diamond smuggling trade use their phones to check prices, text quotes and arrange deliveries. Women who once sold roasted corn by the roadside now make a living dealing in mobile top-up cards and recharging flat phone batteries in a town where much of the population doesn't have electricity.

"Everyone but the very poor has a cell phone," said Mukeba. "Even the guy who only makes a few dollars a day picking up passengers on his bike. Even the woman selling things by the roadside. Almost everyone finds the money."

Cell phones have helped transform Goma in other ways. The town's economic boom of recent years has been fuelled by war and plunder, particularly of the rich mines in eastern Congo. Among them are diamonds and gold but also coltan, a rare but crucial element in mobile phones.
The small fortunes to be made by mining it sent tens of thousands digging for black mud and attracted criminal syndicates and foreign armies. "It all came at once," said Mukeba. "War, cell phones, dollars. Some people are getting very, very rich and everyone is making a little bit of money."

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Mobiles changing people's lives in Africa

Interesting article in Guardian about how Mobiles give chance to farmers in Africa to cut out the middleman and sell the crops directly to the buyers.
Read more here.