Talk Is Cheap

Industry pushes no-frills mobile phones into developing markets

4 min read

Just over a year ago, handset manufacturers started talking openly about making supercheap phones for the masses in such developing countries as Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, and Yemen. Now they’re delivering the goods. The first generation of low-cost handsets, stripped of everything except simple telephony and text messaging functions, feature single-chip designs, slimmed-down software, and price tags of US $40 and lower.

Why such a big effort? Groups like the London-based GSM Association (GSMA), which represents service providers around the world using Europe’s favored cellphone system, say it’s a question of social responsibility—of connecting many of the less fortunate of the world at a price they can afford. It also makes business sense. Mobile phone operators and equipment makers, struggling now to expand in heavily saturated advanced industrial markets, see opportunities in less-developed regions.

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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