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Telcos in quest for new revenue streams

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Although voice revenues for telecom operators – fixed line and mobile – are expected to increase in Africa over the next five years, alternative revenue sources are urgently being considered by telcos, some of which will be addressed at the upcoming AfricaCom 2015 work sessions.

How to harness data and whether big data can be successfully monetised by operators, will be a pivotal discussion at ‘New Revenue Streams’, an addition to the AfricaCom 2015 line-up.  Matthew Reed, Principal Analyst at Ovum, noted recently that mobile data revenues in Africa are expected to almost double over the coming five years, rising from about $10.8bn in 2014 to $20.9bn in 2019. This figure also includes the shift towards digital service offerings from the operators to consumers and enterprise alike.

Supporting this premise and adding fuel to the data burning, is the emergence and rapid adoption of new character-based languages, such as Emojii.  From pen pals, to email and now to graphic engagement, the world of communication is changing.  This is also good news for African MNOs as these graphic lingos are catching on fast, aiding social inclusion with their easy-to-understand representations and subsequently boosting data traffic across all income groups.

However, data continues to be expensive in Africa and in order for fixed line and mobile network operators to remain profitable for the foreseeable future, diversification of service and product offerings, has to occur.  For this reason, topics at the ‘New Revenue Streams’ session will also include: Opportunities for revenue from the Triple Play Model as well as the role that Machine to Machine (M2M) services could play in Africa – how the technology works, what business models and what standards would need to be agreed on and implemented for device to device communications to succeed.

Discussing the various opportunities that are currently available and even those of the future, are numerous industry achievers.  Included in the line-up is Rapelang Rabana, founder of Re-Kindle Learning – acknowledged by the World Economic Forum as Entrepreneur for the World – who will share her insights as to how learning and mobile can be combined for revenue and social enhancement.

“As the digital economy evolves, telcos have a unique opportunity to play a more active role in the ‘advancement’ of society and, global enterprise” commented Julie Rey-Gore, Research Director for Com World Series.  Indeed, Telcos are integral and influential to many aspects of our connected lives ranging from media and information, to trade and finance as well as education and healthcare.  As such, an increasing part of this ‘ever on’ segment is the growing ‘Wearable Device’ market and its influence on digital retail.

Globally, Wearables are currently valued at approximately USD 8 billion and are predicted to grow to between USD10 billion – USD 12.6 billion by 2018 as we march towards singularity and a brain-computer interfaced society.  For Telcos, owning a slice of the connected living market is an opportunity not to be ignored, consequently this will also be debated during the session on Wednesday 18th November, day two of AfricaCom 2015.

Other notable organisations taking part in the discussions on this day will be: Malawi Telecommunications, Zamtel, Airtel Africa, Procera Networks, Wananchi Group, NEC Corportaion, BCSG, Huawei Technologies and BTCL. 

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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