Path to greater prosperity lies in innovation

We also must be ready to continuously learn to be relevant in a rapidly changing environment. file photo | nmg
We also must be ready to continuously learn to be relevant in a rapidly changing environment. file photo | nmg 

I was in Barcelona, Spain, last week for the Mobile World Congress (MWC). The mammoth congress had more than 107,000 attendees from 205 countries with more than 2,400 exhibitors showcasing their latest mobile innovations.

Owing to many innovations focusing on emerging technologies, many congress attendees dubbed the 2018 event as the year of Intelligent Connectivity with a huge buzz around 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

5G is the latest of the mobile technology that will significantly lower latency and increase throughput to meet the swelling mobile data consumption.

With 5G, new applications are under way. For example, with increasing mobile use, the connection of the base station to the core network (in technical terms backhaul) must keep pace with the demand.

5G networks will present new backhaul capacity and improved latency that will enable development of new enterprises that never existed before.

A laboratory test conducted by Vodafone Group and Huawei showed that it is possible to deliver up to 2.7 Gigabits per second (Gbps) capacity from a single IP microwave link.

This is the first time in history that a single radio frequency (RF) outdoor unit was able to reach more than 2 Gbps in a single polarisation.

This in simple language means that the speed of communication through the networks will significantly improve and lower the cost of connectivity.

These emerging innovations present great promise on resource (scarce spectrum) optimisation leading to lower operator’s capital expenditure and more likely enable affordable communication.

This has been necessitated by increasing competition from global Over The Top (OTT) providers such as WhatsApp, Skype or any other voice-over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) provider that offer free calls.

Research shows that one can dynamically share spectrum between 2G and 4G without the need for two different spectrums.

Telkom Indonesia and Huawei developed this revolutionary innovation that will significantly lower the spectrum cost to an operator.

What this means to the ordinary citizen is that affordability and access to mobile and Internet technology will be more inclusive. It is with this in mind that news about Kenya’s regulatory authorities intending to introduce consumer price control defeats any logic.

If anything, we need to learn from the energy regulatory authority that price controls do not work well in this economy.

While it is common sense for the regulator to introduce such measures as local roaming to uplift other competitors, price caps in the face of stiff completion from OTTs at zero price may be spelling a death sentence to not just one operator but the entire lot of players.

The innovation space in mobile and Internet is so broad that in my view we have not even scratched the surface.

Giant telecommunication companies such as China Mobile with over 900 million subscribers and Telkom Indonesia with over 200 million subscribers attending the congress are focusing on co-creating new innovations and possibly become digital services companies rather than just being telecommunication companies.

These innovative approaches cut cost and help in building capacities. Future success lies with what we do with the emerging technologies. So far, digital technologies have made us better and more productive.

Our communication has been transformed so that we shop, learn and even play games from the comfort of our homes. 5G, AI and IoT promise to create a greater future with new entrepreneurial opportunities through the support of intelligent systems that can help transform our healthcare, agriculture, education and even deal with the problem of poverty.

When AI can hear, see, learn or reason and even undertake some tasks, it does not mean it minimises our chances of creating employment but rather it augments our inadequacies to do better.

But we also must be ready to continuously learn to be relevant in a rapidly changing environment. Learning organisations or countries make rapid progress.

Not too long ago, China was struggling to feed her people but in a generation, China is an economically strong nation. Its companies, such as Huawei that are now dominating telecommunication research and development, were nowhere a few years ago but today they stand tall.