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Star Wars? No, PSD2 means banking wars

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The revised Payment Services Directive will be a hot topic next year as it could mean a change in traditional banking as we know it, allowing third-party service providers to offer customers alternative banking services, says THOMAS PAYS, co-founder and CEO of i-Pay.

If you have not heard about the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) yet, get ready, there will be a lot of talk of it in 2017. Since the Council of the European Parliament passed the PSD2 legislation, the banking sector is bracing itself for a period of immense change, with a lot of companies set to get into the action over the next few years.

In a nutshell, PSD2 allows for, amongst others, digital role players to tap into payments systems traditionally considered the domain of the financial services system. Banks must, according to the regulation, offer third-party service providers ways to access customers’ accounts through open APIs (application program interfaces). This paves the way for the banking sector to evolve quite dramatically, eventually allowing for different types of companies and fintech startups to offer banking services to customers.

“You are actually looking at the collapse of the traditional banking infrastructure and a rebirth of banking as we know it.” These bold words come from Thomas Pays, co-founder and CEO of i-Pay, an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) payment gateway based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Pays believes through PSD2, banks are set to lose full control over account information, a key resource which, understandably, they never wanted to share with fintech companies. As innovative and agile as new fintech start-ups are, a number of them were hamstrung by this, with banks arguably stifling innovation and the growth of the industry.

PSD2 was adopted by the European Union (EU) in order to promote innovation in the payments space, improve consumer protection, and to incorporate new and emerging payment services typically provided through digital innovation. While PSD2 is first and foremost focussed on the EU, Pays notes that this regulation will affect South African banks too. “Several local banks have branches in the UK and Europe, and since these fall under PSD2 regulation – and also being on the same back-end as the banks’ South African systems – their whole structure would need to change in order to comply,” notes Pays. He describes the impact of the regulation as a ripple effect that will eventually touch banking in as many as 67 countries.

Here is, for example, the way PSD2 will change the online buying process. Currently, the way shopping is done online allows for a number of role players in the process, including the merchant and customer, the ‘merchant acquirer’ that processes credit card payments on behalf of the merchant, card schemes such as Visa, and finally the customer’s bank. PSD2 creates what is called a Payment Initiation Service Provider (PISP), a go-between which if given permission by the customer, initiates a payment bridge directly between the merchant and the bank. This is possible since PSD2 offers API access to the customer’s bank accounts, and it is in the role of PISP that fintech companies, such as i-Pay, will operate.

Who will benefit the most from PSD2? Pays believes that through the new banking ecosystem, the main winner will be the consumer, since it will not only be more convenient to transact online, but also safer. “PSD2 is taking online banking infrastructure and gearing it towards an environment which is stronger and more robust – much more so than the current method of buying online with credit cards,” he elaborated. The merchants too are set to benefit, since they are looking at much smaller transaction fees and more convenient ways to accept payments.

Pays believes that even though PSD2 opens the market for innovative companies, the exact type of innovation it might herald is not yet known at this stage. “PSD2 is going to shock the market not just on a technological level, but also with time through the innovation it will drive. At this stage, we can only speculate how banking is going to work in future,” Pays says.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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