Monday, September 19, 2011

WiFi for Trading Centers in Developing Countries

Consider This:

  • 2G GSM towers are widely deployed worldwide
  • Extremely inexpensive 1000mW point-to-point WiFi gear can deliver excellent throughput over long distances to connect towers in ring topologies
  • High performance mesh WiFi routers that can cover the most important areas of a trading village in developing countries can be as low as $2000 to $3000 (based on prices in America). 
  • Affordable Android-based WiFi tablets (under $199) and dual-SIM Android phones (under $99) with economies of scale in the BILLIONS made in China will hit the market within a year
  • Substantial numbers of refurbished laptops donated from America and Europe are just waiting for wireless service
  • Operators can bring cached "offline" content to the network for a true high speed experience 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ultra Low Cost WiFi with Local "Offline" Intranet Content & Communications

Did you know that bandwidth in Africa can cost up to 100 times what it costs in the U.S. and even if you can afford it the speeds are typically quite slow?

Do you remember the days of dial-up in the US? Slow internet is super frustrating.

If internet is not available, unreliable, or too expensive you need local "offline" content; bring the servers local to the network.  Take the best parts of the internet and the most important features and make them local to the network.  Instead of users trying to hit servers in the US, bring copies of the servers to Africa.  This way it will be fast and the users will have a good experience.

Think of it like a big enterprise "intranet" for a village, city, region or even a country.  With WiFi, the air interface can handle the speeds; the bottleneck is the "backhaul" connection to the internet.  With 2G/3G cellular, the air interface can be a major limitation; but not with WiFi.  The 4G air interface is better but too expensive for wide deployment in Africa and the developing world.

Inexpensive Android smartphones and tablets with WiFi made for the Indian market will soon be arriving in Africa.  Lenovo recently announced a $199 Android tablet.  Huawei, Samsung, and Micromax all make Android based 3G phones with WiFi.

Refurbished laptops from the US or Europe are arriving in Africa by the millions.  WiFi devices are available and more will be coming very soon.  Over 80% of all smartphones made have WiFi now.  And in the US and Europe, over 50% of the people carry smartphones with WiFi.  The device upgrade cycle is typically around 18 months; how long will it be before more and more of these WiFi devices arrive in Africa?  Think about it...

Why subsidize or try to manage the supply chain of devices; don't tie up capital or credit in inventory. Let the open market supply affordable WiFi devices with the power of economies of scale in the BILLIONS. If you don't have to subsidize; don't! You will be much more profitable.

The other problem with 4G (both WiMAX and LTE) is the cost of access devices and modems. With such a new, frequency band fragmented, technology the cost of devices can be very expensive and certainly prohibitive for most in Africa. If the price of modems is high you will have a smaller addressable base for which to sell service. How many people can really afford that device if it is not subsidized? This is a tough position to be in; especially if you just spent all your wad building that new, expensive 4G network.

You don't have that problem with WiFi. Granted it is more complicated to cover larger areas with WiFi than a low frequency cellular technology but it can be done. Plus, people are used to walking to access conveniences; not everywhere needs to have high speed internet/intranet. Building hotspots in the central business district "trading center", around schools or hospitals, will be sufficient in the beginning.

New to our project? Basically, we want to help increase the Internet penetration rate in Malawi and developing countries through the introduction of ultra-low-cost WiFi technology that can be used point-to-point for long distances (tested up to 36km with LOS) and meshed to create hotzones in the villages across Malawi. Most villages can be covered for less than a couple thousand USD (excluding tower space and access to high speed Internet) while cheap WiFi devices (like $199 Android tablets) will be coming soon.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Empower a Microbusiness with Solar Powered Light Bulbs

Do you believe in empowering smaller entrepreneurs around the globe? Check out this solar light bulb that could potentially make a huge impact on the 1.4 billion people around the world who don't have access to an electrical grid. This social entrepreneur believes that the charity model of aid used by nonprofit organizations doesn't work -- despite its good intentions. Instead he believes selling the solar bulbs in a capitalist free market, instead of donating them, will help more people in developing countries. Social entrepreneurship helps create more jobs and a network of dealers and distributors that can then be utilized to sell more/other products and ultimitely build a more robust economy in developing countries.

Thank you Chris Swanda for this great article.

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