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Solar gets behind recycling

Sun Exchange, a Cape Town-based online solar energy marketplace, has announced a crowd-sale for a solar project that will power a Cape Town-based recycled plastics manufacturer.

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Through the crowd-sale, users in South Africa and across the globe can buy into the Nioro Plastics solar project and then earn income from the electricity it generates. 

Sun Exchange has won several awards and broad recognition for its innovative platform and for promoting sustainable business practises by connecting “conscious capital” to commercial solar projects. Nioro Plastics will be the largest Sun Exchange crowd-sale to date, and will focus on minimising negative environmental impacts of the plastics industry. 

The increasing use globally of single-use plastic items such as bottles and packaging is garnering much public attention following recent headlines and studies on the matter. For example, a recent edition of National Geographic revealed how hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastics are entering our oceans each year, threatening wildlife with potential catastrophic impact on the entire food chain. 

“Plastics aren’t inherently bad, it’s what we do, or don’t do, with them that counts,” said Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.

The good news is that much of the plastic we use is 100% recyclable. Thanks to the ongoing campaigning efforts of organisations such as PETCO, South Africa is one of the top countries for collecting and recycling  PET, a form of plastic predominantly used to make drinking bottles. 

However, electricity is still required to repurpose recycled materials, and while this process is powered by fossil fuels, the industry can hardly claim to be a sustainable “cyclical” solution. 

Enter Sun Exchange, described by its founders as the “AirBnB for solar panels,” which enables users to generate an income stream powered by the sun in just a few clicks. Through the Sun Exchange platform, practically anyone can buy solar cells installed onto the roof of Nioro Plastics, which are leased to give the plastic producer low-cost access to clean energy for a period 20 years. This presents a unique opportunity for individuals to put their money to work and earn income while promoting clean energy and sustainability in one of South Africa’s fastest growing industries.

The project also highlights how manufacturers and companies of all sizes, across industries and geographies, can leverage Sun Exchange’s innovative platform to go solar with no upfront cost and minimise their energy costs and carbon footprint. 

“We encourage the use of recycling and certainly having some of the energy required for the production of these plastic bottles being solar-driven would be a very good and positive thing,” said Simeon Penev, Managing Director, Nioro Plastics. “It’s a good investment for the people leasing solar cells, because they will be making money.”

How Sun Exchange Monetises Sunshine

Sun Exchange has won global recognition for its disruptive approach to solar finance. The company won the Mondato Award for Social Impact in Sub-Saharan Africa and has been named the best Blockchain Business In Africa at the African Fintech Awards for the past two years running. The United Nations Development Program also recently selected Sun Exchange to pilot blockchain-based solar finance in Moldova.

The Sun Exchange approach to “monetising sunshine” can be broken down in four key phases:

  • Solar Project Crowd Sale: Through its buy-to-lease solar marketplace, Sun Exchange sells batches of solar cells for projects that have been vetted for social and environmental responsibility, and for economic viability. During the crowd sale, virtually any individual or organisation, anywhere in the world, can purchase solar cells for only ZAR 60 per cell, and then rent them to be installed in the solar project.
  • Solar Plant Installation: Upon completion of the crowd sale, when all solar cells for a project have been purchased, Sun Exchange works with local engineering, procurement and construction partners to build and install the solar power system.
  • Electricity and Income Generation: Once the installation is complete (typically within two to three weeks), the solar plant starts generating electricity and solar cell owners start earning rental income based on the amount of electricity their solar cells produce. Owners can choose to receive rental payments in local currency or Bitcoin (BTC), and bonuses in the platform’s own SUNEX digital rewards token. 
  • Real Time Tracking: Through the Sun Exchange online dashboard, solar cell owners can track the real-time performance and electricity generation of their cells. While solar cells are typically leased under a 20-year contract, owners can choose to cash out instantly at any time.

“Nioro Plastics and Sun Exchange are setting a global precedent for the use of solar power and sustainable practices in the plastics industry in South Africa and beyond,” said Abraham Cambridge, CEO and founder of Sun Exchange. “Anyone interested in conscious capital should participate in the crowd sale and capture the opportunity to earn money while doing good and promoting clean power, all of which can be done with the click of a button through TheSunExchange.com.”

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Rain, Telkom Mobile, lead in affordable data

A new report by the telecoms regulator in South Africa reveal the true consumer champions in mobile data costs

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The latest bi-annual tariff analysis report produced by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) reveals that Telkom Mobile data costs for bundles are two-thirds lower than those of Vodacom and MTN. On the other hand, Rain is half the price again of Telkom. 

The report focuses on the 163 tariff notifications lodged with ICASA during the period 1 July 2018 to 31 December 2018.

“It seeks to ensure that there is retail price transparency within the electronic communications sector, the purpose of which is to enable consumers to make an informed choice, in terms of tariff plan preferences and/or preferred service providers based on their different offerings,” said Icasa.

ICASA says it observed the competitiveness between licensees in terms of the number of promotions that were on offer in the market, with 31 promotions launched during the period. 

The report shows that MTN and Vodacom charge the same prices for a 1GB and a 3GB data bundle at R149 and R299 respectively.  On the other hand, Telkom Mobile charges (for similar-sized data bundles) R100 (1GB) and R201 (3GB). Cell C discontinued its 1GB bundle, which was replaced with a 1.5GB bundle offered at the same price as the replaced 1GB data bundle at R149. 

Rain’s “One Plan Package” prepaid mobile data offering of R50 for a 1GB bundle remains the most affordable when compared to the offers from other MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) and MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators).  

“This development should have a positive impact on customers’ pockets as they are paying less compared to similar data bundles and increases choice,” said Icasa.

The report also revealed that the cost of out-of-bundle data had halved at both MTN and Vodacom, from 99c per Megabyte a year ago to 49c per Megabyte in the first quarter of this year. This was still two thirds more expensive than Telkom Mobile, which has charged 29c per Megabyte throughout this period (see graph below).

Meanwhile, from having positioned itself as consumer champion in recent years, Cell C has fallen on hard times, image-wise: it is by far the most expensive mobile network for out-of-bundle data, at R1.10 per Megabyte. Its prices have not budged in the past year.

The report highlights the disparities between the haves and have-nots in the dramatically plummeting cost of data per Megabyte as one buys bigger and bigger bundles on a 30-day basis (see graph below).

For 20 Gigabyte bundles, all mobile operators are in effect charging 4c per Megabyte. Only at that level do costs come in at under Rain’s standard tariffs regardless of use.

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Qualcomm wins 5G as Apple and Intel cave in

A flurry of announcements from three major tech players ushered in a new mobile chip landscape, wrItes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Last week’s shock announcement by Intel that it was canning its 5G modem business leaves the American market wide open to Qualcomm, in the wake of the latter winning a bruising patent war with Apple.

Intel Corporation announced its intention to “exit the 5G smartphone modem business and complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices”.

Intel said it would also continue to invest in its 5G network infrastructure business, sharpening its focus on a market expected to be dominated by Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.

Intel said it would continue to meet current customer commitments for its existing 4G smartphone modem product line, but did not expect to launch 5G modem products in the smartphone space, including those originally planned for launches in 2020. In other words, it would no longer be supplying chips for iPhones and iPads in competition with Qualcomm.

“We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the ‘cloudification’ of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan. “5G continues to be a strategic priority across Intel, and our team has developed a valuable portfolio of wireless products and intellectual property. We are assessing our options to realise the value we have created, including the opportunities in a wide variety of data-centric platforms and devices in a 5G world.”

The news came immediately after Qualcomm and Apple issued a joint announced of an agreement to dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide. The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm, along with a six-year license agreement, and a multiyear chipset supply agreement.

Apple had previously accused Qualcomm of abusing its dominant position in modem chips for smartphones and charging excessive license fees. It ordered its contract manufacturers, first, to stop paying Qualcomm for the chips, and then to stop using the chips altogether, turning instead to Intel.
With Apple paying up and Intel pulling out, Qualcomm is suddenly in the pound seats. It shares hit their highest levels in five years after the announcements.

Qualcomm said in a statement: “As we lead the world to 5G, we envision this next big change in cellular technology spurring a new era of intelligent, connected devices and enabling new opportunities in connected cars, remote delivery of health care services, and the IoT — including smart cities, smart homes, and wearables. Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Strategy Analytics released a report on the same day that showed Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia will lead the market in core 5G infrastructure, namely Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, by 2023 as the 5G market takes off. Huawei is expected to have the edge as a result of the vast scale of the early 5G market in China and its long term steady investment in R&D. According to a report entitled “Comparison and 2023 5G Global Market Potential for leading 5G RAN Vendors – Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia”, two outliers, Samsung and ZTE, are expected to expand their global presence alongside emerging vendors as competition heats up.

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