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Technology

How high-speed 5G is transforming services

5G technology
5G will reduce the time it takes telcos to realise their returns on investments from around 15 to three years. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Technology is transforming the way individuals, families, communities and individuals live and work. But it is also changing at a fast pace. Now, the digital community is already talking about 5G technology, which will upgrade the 4G technology that is already in use in Kenya.

Already, 5G technology is transforming diverse industries in Europe and Asia, with Turkish Airlines and DBS Bank being among the earliest adopters.

Lim Sing Seng, the head of consumer banking and wealth management at DBS is among global leaders who have deployed 5G technology to change the way banks interact with their customers.

"In the past, the person with the product was king," he told the Huawei Digital Transformation of Industries Summit at the ongoing Global Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain. "In today's world, the person who can connect the product and the customer is king."

DBS came to a point when its top managers stopped asking: 'What should we do next?' to asking: 'What is the data telling us?' And by looking at the data, they noted that customers wanted more digital products.

Parents, for instance, wanted to send money to their children without either of them having to walk into a bank.

They also wanted to monitor how the children we're spending the money as this had both social and health implications.

To respond to this need, DBS made the strategic decision to become digital to the core. And in 2013, the bank developed a product to meet this need in partnership with Huawei. They used 5G technology, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence in response to Bill Gate's observation that people do not need banks but rather banking services.

DBS built the first mobile-based bank in India, known as Digibank.

"Customers do not need to go to the bank," Mr Lim said. "They can access their accounts in 90 seconds", thanks to 5G technology which has download speeds that are 10 times faster than 4G.

The aim of the product was to "make banking invisible" and this entailed shifting the bank's focus from its products to its customers.

According to Stone He, CEO of Huawei Technologies Kenya Company Ltd, there is nothing to stop companies like Safaricom #ticker:SCOM from walking the same road.

Already, Huawei has worked with Safaricom to develop the Fuliza platform, which gives Safaricom customers overdraft facilities.

In less than two months, the platform has recorded a turnover of over 130 million dollars, yet it operates on 4G technology.

"Huawei is developing Artificial Intelligence for banks to become game changers in fintech,” says Chow, the technology company's global head for enterprise business.

Artificial Intelligence can also be deployed in the retail, payments and packaging businesses, providing an opportunity for integrated digital systems that can also include services like health and agriculture as is already happening in some parts of Kenya or fish farming in Norway.

"With 5G you will not need fibre," said Mr Stone on the sidelines of the WMC.

However, Kenya has still some way to go before this future can be transformed from possibility to reality.

"The government must be willing to provide the broadband," he told Digital magazine a day after Huawei launched the first 5G mobile telephone.

Once the infrastructure is in place, not only will internet speeds increase dramatically, the cost of connectivity will become cheaper, making it possible for telcos to invest in connecting rural and sparsely populated areas.

5G will reduce the time it takes telcos to realise their returns on investments from around 15 to three years.

This, coupled with entry of cheaper smart phones and solar power technologies will ensure that more people in rural areas are connected to digital services, including remote diagnoses as well as e-learning.

Mr Stone says he hopes that Kenyan mobile companies can develop 5G in the future.

In sub-Saharan Africa, only Rain, a South African company, has adopted 5G.

"The tsunami that will hit us is when the (5G) devices start to become available," said Paul Harris, chairman of Rain at the launch of the firm's partnership in Barcelona on Wednesday.

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