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World Mobile Chain: Cardano’s First Killer App?

Jul 26, 2021 ·

By Jose Maria Macedo

Jose Maria Macedo sits down with Micky Watkins, Alan Omnet and Andrew Soper from World Mobile. World Mobile is seeking to tackle one of the biggest challenges globally: connectivity. This is not your typical crypto native project, but rather a new kind of telecoms network which leverages and combines a range of technologies like mesh networking, hybrid spectrum, and renewable energies, with blockchain being used to grow and distribute its infrastructure. It also happens to be the first token on Cardano supported by IOHK itself.

In this conversation, we’ll dive into World Mobile: what it is, why it matters and their experience building on Cardano so far.

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 Music Attribution:


Interview Transcript:

Jose (00:02:28):

Today, I’m happy to be here with World Mobile Chain. World Mobile Chain is seeking to tackle one of the biggest challenges globally: Connectivity. More than half the world’s population remains unconnected, which leads to poor health, education and a lot more bad consequences. This is not your typical crypto project, but rather a new kind of telecommunications network which leverages technologies like mesh networking, hybrid spectrum, renewable energies and blockchain to grow and distribute its infrastructure. In this conversation, we’ll dive into World Mobile, what it is, why it matters and their experience building on Cardano so far. Disclaimer: I’m an advisor for World Mobile Chain, and none of this is investment advice. So before we start, guys, could you talk briefly about your backgrounds, I guess your team’s background, how you came together, and how long you’ve been working on this?

Andrew (00:03:13):

Sure. I mean, I’m probably the best guy to start because I’m originally from Kenya, and I was living in Tanzania when Micky called me up. We used to live at university together, and he calls me up and says, “I would like to develop this idea to bring super low cost internet to villages in Africa, but I don’t know how to power it,” and he knew that I was in renewable energy, and very, very quickly, we started working on this business model to make this work. So my background, like I said, my family business has been in solar and wholesale bulk distribution in East Africa for more than 25 years.

Andrew (00:03:52):

I moved out to Tanzania in 2009 to focus on that, and in the decade subsequent, I developed a really nice turnkey EPC business and we supplied a lot of the telco batteries to all the telcos in Tanzania, and I mean, my big claim to fame is I’ve powered up 180 villages for the Elon musk sponsored XPRIZE, for the Global Learning initiative. I’ve done oil and gas work. I’ve done mini-grid works. I’ve really built an amazing experience developing this in Tanzania, and I’m extremely passionate about bringing energy to these rural communities.

Andrew (00:04:30):

And in amongst that journey, I met RJ. He’s a really good friend of mine. We’re both founding members of the business group in Tanzania. He is born and bred, lives, breathes Tanzania. His family’s business is tobacco. They’re selling millions of cigarettes every month through thousands and thousands of retail points all around the country, and his day job is an ISP, internet service provider, and he’s built really big mesh networks in Tanzania, tens of thousands university students across Dar es Salaam, and a 10 kilometer Wi-Fi mesh in Dar es Salaam as well. And one of the larger projects he’s done is a almost 700 solar powered schools in the south east of Tanzania, and he worked with Microsoft and Cisco and Intel to connect them all up in different ways, P2P, Fiber, VSAT, GSM, and he did that with USAID and he did that over a couple of months.

Andrew (00:05:28):

And the whole point is we are on the ground in Tanzania and East Africa today, and we have our technical teams and we have a lot of experience rolling out, planning, deploying in this area, and we really want to emphasize that we’re ready to go today. We can actually roll out 600 villages a month today. We don’t need to do anything like that, but the point is we want to highlight that we’ve got a massive capacity in Tanzania and East Africa right now. So that’s the key part of the team on the ground.

Jose (00:06:00):

That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s a shame RJ couldn’t be here. He’s a very funny guy as well. Mickey and Alan, you guys want to go next?

Micky (00:06:07):

Thanks, Alan. Telecoms entrepreneur. I’d like to consider myself a futurist. I have raised millions of monies in VC and private funding, and mostly I’ve spent the last years developing solutions to connect people in a really cheap manner. I work alongside my brother Josh. He’s been coding since he was 11. He actually introduced me to telecommunications. We developed Yallo together, and Josh specializes right now in mostly AI and very advanced algorithms, and he consults with some of the world’s leading companies. We’ve also got Antonio, big shout out to the CTO. He’s worked on high-impact, high-load platforms for the last 10 years. I’ve been working with him for the last five years. We have Ian Barnett. He’s an OG in the telecom space. His businesses turns over a substantial amount every year in hundreds of millions, and he’s given services to some of the largest global MVNOs and MNOs and Skype and moreover.

Micky (00:07:07):

But the core team, we’ve got Divij and Vinay, and the list goes on. There’s a lot of us at World Mobile that are making this happen, but the advisory team is where it’s at as well. This is the A-team. We’ve got the Andrew Bartley, Chief Investment Officer for the TMT, for the IFC, which is a private division of the World Bank. He was in charge of $70 billion portfolio in 2000 companies across 100 countries, many of those in Africa. He saw the rise of telecommunications and actually invested into it and watched it grow. You got Charles Njoroge, the former Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community. He was positioned in Tanzania for six years, he was the founding member of the communications authority of Kenya. Serious guy. Then we’re working with… Another person I should highlight here is Professor Slim. He’s the professor of electrical engineering at King Abdullah University, and he’s developing the new generation of aerial and space networks, and really passionate about connecting the unconnected. A very clever man.

Micky (00:08:02):

And then you’ve got people like Rene. Rene served as the managing director of J.P. Morgan and the chairman of the J.P. Morgan new tech ventures plan, early funding for Virgin Mobile, OmniTel, [Win Bagos 00:08:12], you can probably see a telecom theme happening here. And then we’ve got Chris Watson. He’s an adviser to the World Bank for digital IDs, but he’s also one of the world, if not the world’s leading telecom lawyer. And then we have people like Mamadou, Mamadou Toure is also from the IFC, based in Johannesburg, and again, invested into many telecom companies. We’re not messing around. This is a very serious team, made up of a lot of energy, but more than energy, a lot of experience from people who have shaped and made the regulation, and created the policies and the frameworks for what we use as modern telecom today, and they’re hell bent on providing it for the other three and a half billion people that don’t have it.

Jose (00:08:50):

Yeah, I think that’s why I wanted to start with kind of you giving your backgrounds because it’s a really big problem you’re trying to solve, and I think everyone in the crypto industry is a bit burnt from kind of people trying to solve these huge problems in 2017 in a naive way, whereas I think what excited us about this team, what excited me about this team was just the variety of expertise that you have in the different areas like renewables, telecoms, that you really need in order to pull something like this off. But before we get into what you’re actually doing, can you talk a bit about the problem? How is it that almost half the world is still unconnected? Why is this happening?

Micky (00:09:31):

Okay, so it’s really quite simple. It’s unfortunate. Legacy infrastructure just doesn’t cut the mustard. The big tech companies, the Huaweis, the Samsungs, the Siemens, the Nokia, quite rightly so to defend their position in the market bought up all the innovation, and for the last 10, 15 years, there has been no real innovation. There’s been hype about 4G and 5G and faster internet, but the same legacy infrastructure just can’t carry signal to the areas profitably where people need to be connected. So that’s a major, major issue. It’s not like the mobile network operators don’t want to connect the other half of the world. There’s 3.5 billion people there that haven’t… They haven’t had their Geocities moment, they haven’t had their moment of getting online and being able to surf for eight hours, 12 hours, 16 hours a day, and they haven’t had the the entrepreneurial skills being awakened and brought online. So we get that much cheaper.

Micky (00:10:27):

There’s a huge problem. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, they’ve managed to highlight that this problem is fixable, but again, they haven’t managed to do it because their methods, their ethos, their business plans and business practices are not fitting for an African market or a market that’s unconnected. So we’re coming in, we’re using the same technology or very similar technology off the shelf that Microsoft, Facebook, Google have all deployed, and applying a new economic model to distribute telecommunications infrastructure, but the core reason is that the telecom company’s legacy infrastructure, outdated business models just isn’t working for that half of the world.

Jose (00:11:05):

Could you explain maybe a bit of how the legacy infrastructure works, kind of a high level explanation of how it works, and then maybe contrast it with how your solution works?

Micky (00:11:15):

Okay. The easiest way to highlight this is in spectrums. So if you take GSM, 3G, 4G, typical spectrum, there’s a huge premium put on this. The GSM became an association, and there’s a massive charge. If you take Wi-Fi, you immediately are saving around 60% of the end cost, so that’s just to deliver it to the end user, but if you use more innovative ways to deliver connectivity using legacy spectrums but with modern infrastructure, such as high altitude platforms or drones or tethered balloons, or stuff as simple as TV white space, which is massively robust and has existed for 40 years, this is how you go about it a different way, this is how you break down the price.

Micky (00:11:53):

So it’s about being dynamic, it’s about being agile, it’s about developing a new set of standards for telecommunications, and using existing infrastructure just in a different way, existing technology and spectrums is just in a different way, and make it a hybrid, not just out-of-the-box turnkey solution that you buy for half a billion dollars and then spend a couple of 100 million dollars in license fees, and go to LinkedIn, get a load of stuff in and all of a sudden, you got a mobile network operator. You don’t even have to put up the towers anymore. They’re all there for you in a shared space, Andy will tell you. Helios Towers, they do most of the work. Mobile network operators, they just share stuff. So that’s how you do it differently, and that’s how we get there differently, and obviously, there is a way.

Jose (00:12:32):

Okay, and so what you’re doing, could you talk a bit about how your solution works? So obviously, once you have connectivity, there’s a whole ecosystem that enables it, we’re going to go into that. But just on the solution itself, because you’re not going in and putting down your own towers, right? You’re more kind of extending the connectivity that other players have already put in, but extending it to areas that they can’t reach at a very cheap cost, and maybe could you go into how you do that and all the parts that go into it?

Micky (00:13:00):

Yeah. I mean, I can briefly explain it to you in a way that’s not too complex, I hope. Chinese and other entities have laid down a lot of fiber throughout Africa, the continent, for the last several years. So the fiber infrastructure is actually there, the sea cables are actually there to connect. What’s not there is the last mile, and the reason the last mile is not there because it’s not profitable using legacy infrastructure to get there. So what we do is we pick up all this infrastructure, and-

Jose (00:13:31):

And what is the legacy infrastructure? Sorry to interrupt you, but just to go super sort of first principles, what is the legacy infrastructure, how does that work?

Micky (00:13:38):

Legacy infrastructures is what I described kind of before, it’s existing spectrums. It’s one spectrum suits all environments. It’s 4G, it’s 3G, it’s the cell signal that most of the world use, and even 2G in some places still. It’s just one thing, it’s a turnkey solution out of the box. We take a different approach that we say, “Okay, how do we pick up at the last point of this fiber, and how can we deliver it a distance away the cheapest way possible?” So we have a massive advantage in renewable energy, for example, in the power consumption of the devices that we use. So we’re able to go out there, and we don’t need to use generators. We can hand it off to low power consumption devices. But we have other advantages as well. So we pick up this fiber, we build our own tower, we stick on top of this tower an FSO unit.

Micky (00:14:22):

We’re actually working right now with Google Project X, Moonshot, I think. Don’t quote me, but I think it’s the Moonshot project. And they’re using something called Taara, and this is a device that they’ve developed. It’s an FSO, the specifications are on their website, and we’re about to run a proof of concept either in Kenya or in Tanzania for this, and this is incredible. It’s a device that is 12 inches in diameter and it’s able to shoot 20 gigabytes a second, 12 kilometer range, 10 kilometer range in line of sight. So you can literally build a square where you can have lightning fast internet, and each device isn’t as expensive as you think, it’s several thousands of dollars, and of course, there’s licensing and software, but the delivery is much cheaper.

Micky (00:15:07):

Or we use TV whitespace. We’ll pick up on the same fiber, we’ll add it, we’ll put on a tower, and then we’ll stick a TV whitespace antenna receiver on the tower and we’ll send that 25 kilometers in radius, and anyone within that range can pick it up. We can use a balloon, for example. I mean, Alan, you want to talk about the balloons that we’re looking at, the HAPS and the things that we’re potentially playing with? They’re very exciting technology to be able to distribute old legacy spectrum in a new way.

Alan (00:15:38):

Yeah, absolutely. So as Micky mentioned, there’s a few major costs of a mobile operator. You’ve got the power, which we’ve talked about, the power, reducing the cost where we’re bringing the renewable energy in, and it’s a huge… One of the biggest costs for operators. The second one being the spectrum. So targeting that spectrum, and bringing that down as much as we can. The TV whitespace is one that Micky’s talked about, which goes a long distance and it’s non-line of sight, so is very good penetration through buildings, etc., but there are a number of other technologies which… The free-space optics is one which is it’s going to be fiber speed to the home. There’s some very advanced technologies coming out, which where we aim to be one of the first. Existing telecom operators will… They’ll deploy what is profitable and what already works in the field, so they’re much less likely to experiment in the way that we will to reach the rural areas.

Alan (00:16:47):

So for us, our focus is on connecting the unconnected. For existing operators, the focus is on the denser areas and places where they’re used to deploying to. So free-space objects is one, TV whitespace is the other technology, other frequencies such as CBRS, and the way to deploy… There are a number of ways to do it, okay? So yes, you can build a tower. You’ve got Facebook that are experimenting with the Super Towers. You can deliver through the tethered balloons, which in somewhere like Zanzibar, where you have two islands, the ability to reach the whole area of the island can be done from a single tethered balloon over each island. So there’s a lot of ways that can reach the unconnected. And we’re also working with some other providers who are looking at solar-powered drones, and there’s some very clever technology coming out there which is going to enable the ability to deliver high speed internet from above, which also can, in terms of passing through buildings or going over mountains, it’s a much better way to deliver. So it’s about finding the right solution that’s dynamic.

Alan (00:18:14):

Existing infrastructure, once they build a tower, the tower’s there. It’s not going to move, yeah? Whereas if you can deploy something that’s more flexible, more dynamic, then you’re talking about a demand-driven network. Our users, they want connectivity and they’ve got to wait for the operator to come. Is it profitable for the network operators come to my area? And they could be waiting five years. I mean, I’m based in Kent in the UK, and I’ve waited five years to get fiber to the home. You’re just waiting. You’re dependent on what the operator decides to do and when they decide to do it.

Alan (00:18:49):

Our model is about the users want it, the community wants it, so why can they not have that? And one of the issues where people have tried to deploy this before is they haven’t been able to make it economically work, and part of that is just providing some kind of economic model to share in the rewards and the costs. So if you deliver that as part of the solution, then one, you’re bringing the connectivity, but two, you’re also solving that key issue of well, how do we as a community pay for this solution and share it between us?

Alan (00:19:24):

Now, we’ll get onto blockchain later, but obviously, think about the transparency that is required in that situation where people are sharing infrastructure, they’re having to share responsibility of the cost. So the blockchain provides that with its smart contracts, with its immutability. You’ve got a whole trust layer, and you’re not then dependent on an operator to share that between the community, and that’s really where things can advance and scale very rapidly. Once that model is proven and working, you can then deploy this demand-driven network using whatever technology is needed in that specific area to scale it. Long answer, hopefully it’s [inaudible 00:20:08].

Jose (00:20:08):

No, that was a great answer. But both you and Micky talked about a bunch of different technologies that you can use. I guess what is World Mobile itself? When we spoke before, you spoke about the World Mobile switch, how are you kind of connecting all these different technologies together and how should people think of World Mobile Network itself?

Alan (00:20:30):

Look, our mission is to help connect the unconnected, and the way to do it is to use… A lot of technologies already exist, but you need to integrate them, you need to pull them together, you need to provide a solution and a layer of technologies that bring them together. We want people to be able to use the lowest cost kit. So if they want to use a Wi-Fi box, we want to make sure that it is low cost because it is about driving the affordability for the end user. So where we sit is we’re an enabler, yeah? We’re working with Input Output together with a blockchain expertise. World Mobile will work with people like Input Output to deliver what people need on the ground. So we’ll work with Google, we’ll work with Microsoft if Microsoft are delivering their TV whitespace, Google with their Project-

Micky (00:21:23):

Not Facebook though.

Alan (00:21:26):

Google on their Project X, or Alphabet I should say, delivering on their free-space optics. We’ll work with the leading providers of these technologies in order to make it affordable for the end users. So that’s where we sit, and we’re delivering the World Mobile Chain, which enables a sharing economy to operate, but the technologies to get the price down. We’re not inventing a new box, a new piece of hardware that’s going to have a license fee and it’s going to be expensive. We’re about let’s bring down every part of the cost chain. We need to bring those costs down.

Micky (00:22:04):

Yeah, just to extend on that, what Alan just said: We’re a mobile network that’s using off the shelf equipment to build the most affordable low cost mobile network that actually goes faster, and is better in terms of power consumption, and more efficient than existing mobile networks. There’s only one major issue is that nobody’s created the software to control all of those different devices, so what we’re doing is… We’re agnostic. We work with wireless access points, Cisco, Ubiquiti, Motorola, and they plug straight into World Mobile, and we’re actually developing the software that controls these devices, that allows us to meter these devices, that allows us to share these devices out to the community in a form of something that’s called an anode.

Micky (00:22:45):

So an anode is a solar power panel that charges the anode, and underneath that is a streetlight, then there’s a pole. Strapped to that pole is a wireless access point, strapped to that is a Raspberry Pi in protective casing, and underneath that is the second-life batteries from the electronic vehicle revolution in China. That device itself, we didn’t invent anything, not a single part of it, only the software that controls that device, and anyone can build it. Initially, it’ll be us that are deploying these because we have to show the way and the standard, but eventually, communities will be able to literally order our Raspberry Pi or download our software and plug themselves into any devices they can buy secondhand or something that they have from a local shop, provide connectivity, and off they go. They’re starting to earn from a trillion dollar economy.

Alan (00:23:30):

Just to expand a bit on the anode architecture. There’s three layers of the network. So on the first layer, we have the Air Nodes, which Micky just described, so that’s the access layer, where that’s going to be deployed on the ground, in the villages, in the communities, and then obviously, in towns and cities as it runs. Those Air Nodes are where people connect to the network. The Air Nodes connect to the Earth Nodes. The Earth Nodes are where the distributed ledger layer sits, that’s where the blockchain is, and the Earth Nodes can sit anywhere in the world. So for example, in the Tanzania deployments, all of the Air Nodes wills it in Tanzania and the Earth Nodes can sit anywhere in the world, and will be run by people who want to help on the network. So in the same way that people run Ethereum nodes or Cardano nodes, Bitcoin nodes, people who have an interest in crypto or want to run a node, they’ll be able to run an earth node.

Alan (00:24:33):

The Earth Nodes will be where the ledger sets, but also where the services run. So communications as a service, network as a service, they all run through the Earth Nodes. And then the third layer, the architecture are the Aether Nodes, and the Aether Nodes are where we interconnect to the legacy operators. So when people want to connect to other mobile users, make calls, they want to communicate to other people, then it’s got to pass through an Aether node, the Aether node is where the operator has to have a license. You can’t run a completely unregulated, unlicensed network in a country when you’re talking about telecommunications, so there’s got to be somebody that holds the license, and that’s the Aether node operator to connect to existing mobile services. But those are the sort of three layers. Hopefully that clarifies that a bit.

Jose (00:25:24):

Yeah, that really helps, and so is the idea that eventually anyone will be able to run an Air Node, and that can be kind of any type of tech that you mentioned, and the Earth Nodes will just kind of verify that it’s providing connectivity and regulate payments and everything like that?

Alan (00:25:40):

Yeah, so the Air Nodes, there’s going to be different versions, which can be a small Air Node, if you only need to use it yourself or if you want to share it with other people, and there’ll be a bigger node, and if you want it to operate all towns, infrastructure, then a bigger node as well. The Air Nodes will work together in a mesh, so if you have a town that’s needing a lot of Air Nodes connected together, then they’ll operate in a mesh architecture.

Jose (00:26:08):

Okay, and where does the actual tech sit, like the HAPS and the drones and stuff like that? Where would that sit in the stack?

Alan (00:26:16):

So that’s the backbone. So where you need to interconnect from the Air Nodes to get the data access, the backbone will be provided either through the fiber connectivity or through the high altitude platforms. The other thing that we haven’t talked about, obviously, low Earth orbit satellite providers, there’s quite a bit of competition taking place there at the moment, people like Starlink and OneWeb are examples. So we’ll be able to use… Again, it’s about bringing the cost down. So we’re agnostic, we can work with different backbone providers, whether it’s the fiber, the LEOs, the [inaudible 00:26:56] platforms, whatever’s available.

Jose (00:26:56):

Okay, and so what infrastructure will you actually… Because this isn’t just academic, right? You’ve actually deployed this already in Tanzania, and maybe you can talk a little bit about that, and also, what infrastructure will you actually be putting down versus working with others and being kind of an aggregator?

Alan (00:27:18):

Yeah. Andy, if you want to talk about the use cases, but also, I think the other thing is comparison of economics is quite good to look at after that.

Andrew (00:27:27):

Yeah, so I’ll quickly talk about what we’ve done so far, and then how that makes us different. So over the years, we’ve done a bunch of proof of concepts, technical trials, and really validating the assumptions. So we’ve done university campuses, we’ve done smart villages, and the purpose of those was to show that the revenue per user is high, we get a high conversion rate, and people stick around, we don’t get the high churn rates that the other mobile network operators suffer from, and most importantly, we can do it at a very low cost. So I mean, let’s take the village for example. We rolled into a village that had barely any connectivity, maybe on the edge of the village, maybe you get one bar. We came in, we put the mesh in the middle of the village. We also installed two solar lights, one in the center of the village and then also one on the beach, where the fishermen came in and out and parked their boats.

Andrew (00:28:30):

So really, what happened was revolutionary in that these villages were actually drying their fish, they were losing about 90% of the value of the catch, and they were also not able to fish all of the days of the week because in evenings where it was high tide, they couldn’t navigate back into the village. So what we did was by providing the access to the internet, we allowed these villages to find a marketplace for their catch. So we opened up a world of fisher buyers to these guys, and before we know it, they’re exporting fresh prawns to China and Zanzibar, and what really blew us away was that they were exporting live crab to Europe. So you can imagine, they went from one shop to three shops, one bar to three bars, and the economic activity was just out of this world.

Andrew (00:29:29):

We witnessed no issues with the availability of smartphones. They were already there, just being unused. Maybe they take them to the city once a month and download their YouTubes, etc., and there was also no issues with them figuring out how to use mobile money. Everybody knew how to use it from day one. So what we did was we just enabled them to do whatever they wanted. They found the markets for the fish, they ran cables from the node to power other devices like fridges, more lighting, TVs, etc. It was just phenomenal to see the change. And now-

Micky (00:30:14):

Yeah, just can I add to that please, Andy? And also they looked after the infrastructure, which is a massive difference between mobile network operators and us. When there’s a shared economy, when people value something, they can access it, it’s affordable to them, they don’t break it, they don’t steal from it, they just try and keep it up. So these people, this village that we’re talking about right now, we arrived there and we couldn’t get back because of COVID, because of coronavirus. We returned to find all this information nine months later. We also returned to find our equipment in the great state as well, and all of this was done without a commercial rollout. But I wanted to highlight when people value something, they look after it, and mobile network operators is a massive problem. It’s not just about margins, it’s also about looking after equipment and infrastructure out in the rural areas is a huge problem.

Andrew (00:31:02):

Yeah, so I’ll go into a bit more detail about the comparison of economics because it’s a great way for the listener to understand really what makes the difference. The first key item here is cost. If you look at an average cell tower, you’re not walking away for less than $80,000 in CapEx, and a minimum of $15,000 a year in operational costs. Alan mentioned high energy consumption, which for every 100% extra energy consumption you have, you’re spending five times out on extra batteries, extra rectifiers, extra diesel generators. Diesel’ll get stolen. Generators need constant maintenance. We don’t need that because our power consumption is so low, we’re running out a really oversized village node for $5,000, and this has got a 10 year design life, and it’s got no running costs. So you can see for a village for $5,000 or $80,000 GSM tower, which is going to cover maybe five or six villages, it is a massive, massive cost savings.

Andrew (00:32:08):

Now, if you look at the revenue side, the average revenue for the telcos in East Africa is roughly $2.70, and that includes the cities and the rural areas. We validated that we can get over $3.50 average revenue per user because they want data. The users are not willing to pay for minutes and SMS anymore, but they’re willing to pay for data, and especially when it’s high quality. So because of these things, we’re rolling into a village with no data or very little connectivity, and we’re bringing really high quality internet. So our conversion rate is really high. When we’ve done a proof of concept, we’ve actually seen people hitchhiking into the village to check the internet on our network. The MNOs are using tower companies, so naturally, if there’s four players in the market, the conversion rate is going to be a maximum of 25% because when the tower of company rolls into the village, all four operators will go into that village the next day.

Andrew (00:33:07):

And then overall, the feasibility for our model is just much, much greater. We only need 100 users to get a payback of less than two and a half years, whereas the $80,000 MNO tower, they need 2000 users spread over seven, eight villages, and you can imagine that the reception over seven, eight villages is not going to be any good, the service is going to be terrible, versus our service, which is lightning fast internet, and it will be about half the price of the existing data bundles. So when you put all those together, we’re basically giving an irresistible product in a place that they really need it and they didn’t have it before.

Jose (00:33:45):

Yeah, that’s super compelling, and I guess at a high level, given the economics are so compelling, why aren’t the MNOs sort of pivoting their business models to do this? And I do think at the heart of it’s like an innovator’s dilemma type problem where they would have to completely revamp their business model and kind of also cannibalize a lot of their existing business model, but from your perspective, why aren’t MMOs doing this? Why haven’t they done this given the tech is out there and the margins are so compelling?

Andrew (00:34:14):

Well, I mean, the key question is why now? I mean, the MNOs eventually they will try and pivot, but it will take them so long to adapt and their business models are focused on increasing budgets, increasing spending. No technical manager in the telcos ever said, “I want 10% of the budget I had last year.” They always want 30% more budget. So it’s not in their business models and not in their culture to reduce the costs like we have. We’ve got a blank sheet of paper, so we don’t have those problems. But again, why now? So the key thing is smartphone penetration wasn’t there a few years ago. When I was in Tanzania, it wasn’t long ago, five years ago, six years ago, it was $1,000 smartphone. Today, a $30 smartphone, the same as my driver, the same as my cleaner have, it does exactly the same as my Android and my iPhone device, and those smartphones are everywhere. We literally saw them in the village everywhere we went.

Andrew (00:35:09):

And our costs have really reduced as well. So solar panels, it’s famous for reducing cost, but Micky touched on it, the battery technology has really reduced in cost. We’re leveraging that electric vehicle revolution. We’re taking batteries from electric buses and electric taxis in China, and we’re repurposing them for our village nodes, and it really… I mean, to have a 10 year design life on a battery that costs less than a traditional lead battery, it just unlocks our ability to run out anywhere in Africa. So it’s really low cost and we don’t have unreliable electricity to damage our equipment. It makes our lives a lot easier, and that’s something people don’t really understand is that solar in Africa really, really works. It’s really reliable and it pays for itself, and because our power consumption is so low, we just have a massive advantage moving forward on this model.

Andrew (00:36:08):

So other things, so the African average age is 19.7 years old. We’re starting in Tanzania, where two thirds of the population is under the age of 23. This means the population is ripe for adoption. They need it now, and if they don’t need it now, they’re going to need it in a few years. So that wasn’t the case five, six, seven years ago. Hybrid, spectrum and mesh networking technology is maturing. So we’ve spoken about RJ. People like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, they spent lots of money developing this technology. RJ was and is the Microsoft partner, and he was the one that developed a lot of the TV whitespace equipment and tested it in Tanzania and validated it. So we’ve got an unfair advantage that firsthand, we have all that experience and we don’t have to develop that equipment.

Andrew (00:36:54):

And then the guys have pointed out satellites and other technologies are improving, we get to use solar powered drones. Starlink is the most famous one, people always asking us, “What’s going to happen to Starlink?” Well, what’s going to happen is they’re going to need us to buy their $400 ground receivers, and then we’re going to distribute that to the last mile via Wi-Fi. So we’re the ones who are going to be talking to these low Earth orbital satellites and buying thousands and thousands of ground receivers from them for our backhaul. And when you put all those together, the timing is right, we’ve got a blank sheet of paper, we don’t have any legacy issues, we don’t have legacy technology. We’ve had the luxury of being able to tailor our business model and processes on what’s available right now for maximum efficiency, and in Africa that needs to happen. You need a low cost network to make it work in Africa. You can’t go in with a Rolls Royce. It has to work.

Jose (00:37:54):

That makes sense. Don’t know if Micky or Alan, you want to add anything?

Alan (00:37:57):

I think the only other part I’d add to that in terms of the question about why other operators may not have tried this approach is they do follow an existing GSM modeled approach, so they’ve gone from 2G to 3G to 4G, and next step, 5G. So it’s kind of a not completely tunnel vision, but it’s very much they’re lead along the path of where the innovation is going in that area, but that doesn’t always answer the question. Putting a 5G network in a country where half of them are still… Well, over half are still not connected. Bringing a 5G network which is higher cost handset, you need more base stations because the distance the 5G signal travels is lower. They don’t need a gigabit speed, they need a 10 meg speed. They need something that works today.

Alan (00:38:59):

So that’s the path for existing mobile operators. Their path is not to affordability for rural areas. Yes, they do try in certain areas, but that’s not their focus. Now, we’re starting from a focus of bringing together those technologies that deliver the communications to people that need it, and whether that means using 3G, 4G, or TV whitespace, free-space optics, whatever it is, we’ll get the connectivity to the users.

Micky (00:39:31):

We’re coming for Vodafone’s lunch, translated. That’s what Alan’s saying.

Jose (00:39:36):

So the Vodafone’s in this world, they’re basically focusing on providing kind of a better service to existing users, so the people who are already connected just improving the quality of service. They’re spending money on 4G and 5G, like you said, but they’re not focused on going after this massive market of unconnected, which would require a complete kind of change to their business model, right?

Micky (00:39:57):

Their focus… Telecoms is tanking, revenues are dropping. They’re completely focused on making sure their revenues are increasing, and however that may be. That’s something we haven’t touched on here, but self-data governance, economic freedom of choice doesn’t exist on the part of the world that is connected. That’s something we’re also bringing to the World Mobile and World Mobile subscribers. But ultimately, they’re just focused on making sure that they’re bringing revenue through the door in whichever way they can because there’s no way out for them. They don’t have a solution out.

Micky (00:40:26):

So it’s going to take a company like World Mobile or other companies that have spent the last three years developing software to run this off the shelf equipment, and then they’ll either come and they’ll copy our ideas, and that’s fine because the market is nowhere near saturated and doesn’t matter if 500 players come in or 600 players, but the chances are that they may not copy our ideas, rather they’ll feel they can complement us and they can buy our software and they can buy our IP and they can buy our nodes, and they can be part of the sharing economy and earn just like anybody else. We’re proposing a new model here that is a sharing economy. It’s very alien to them.

Alan (00:40:58):

Following on from that, we’ve already been approached by operators because they see the value of the sharing economy and the World Mobile token, which is at the heart of the World Mobile chain, that token economy of incentivizing people to run telecoms infrastructure is very attractive for existing operators, and what’s quite interesting is rather than them going out trying to compete and build their own blockchain or build their own token model, they see that if ours is working and it’s successful, they prefer to join an existing token economy than to create a new one. So that’s something that we’re finding.

Micky (00:41:38):

Which is testament to the fact that we’ve created a sharing economy that they want to join in. This isn’t going to work if this is a 10% cashback loyalty rewards from some fabricated economy, where the big guys are skimming from the bottom. This is working because we’re channeling in trillion dollar economy or $60 billion economy straight into these notes, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a villager or you’re Vodafone, if you want to operate on these nodes, you’re going to make money. That’s the core concept behind this is, nothing else.

Jose (00:42:12):

Makes sense. Makes sense. So I want to touch on the sharing economy and on the blockchain piece generally because a lot of people have PTSD from from 2017 in terms of blockchain real-world applications, where a lot of people were kind of putting in blockchains to raise money, and we didn’t see many of them actually play out, and so there was this move to define to these pure on chain blockchain native applications, which I think the pendulum has swung that way completely, where people think the blockchain is not useful for things that touch the real world. So I’d love to hear from you why did you choose to use blockchain here, and what is it that it enables that you couldn’t achieve without it? And I know their stuff like transparency and mobile money and stuff, but maybe I think probably the biggest one might be this sharing economy and this incentive to build out a distributed network, which we’ve seen used by Helium and stuff pretty successfully. So I would love to get you guys to riff on that a bit.

Alan (00:43:12):

Yeah, as you said, blockchain, it’s great for solving some of the problems for this kind of infrastructure, such as immutability and transparency, which is key because people need to have trust. Once they have trust, then the network can grow. But there’s three key areas that are fundamental to us using blockchain. The first one is digital identity. We’re working with Input Output Hong Kong, or Input Output Global as they are now. We’re using the PRISM platform to deliver digital ID. Now, for telecoms, telecoms is a regulated industry and that helps solve the problem where you do you need to have some kind of private digital identity for our users. So that’s the first part and the first reason for using the blockchain.

Alan (00:44:07):

Secondly, is the digital currency is native to every user that joins the World Mobile network. They’ll have two things, they’ll have the digital ID, but they’ll also have the native digital currency. So when we delivered connectivity, what we found is we’ve delivered the base layer, we’ve delivered a foundation that everything else sits on. So on the base layer, you have the connectivity, but tied to that now with a digital ID and a native digital currency, you’ve got the foundations to now use the digital content that everybody wants. As an ecosystem, I’ve got an internet, what can I do?

Alan (00:44:48):

The first thing you need to do is you need to log in, you need to create some kind of profile in order to get access to the services, and then if you want to buy things, again, you need to make sure you’ve got some way of identifying yourself in order to purchase. So we’ve been the connectivity and as part of that service, natively having a digital ID and a digital currency for each user, they then have access to digital content, they have access to health, education, financial services, which all sit on top of that.

Alan (00:45:22):

Thirdly, the key thing you talked about is the sharing economy. That’s what it’s really all about. It’s the smart contracts, the ability for people to be rewarded and incentivized for running the network, enables distributed ownership of the infrastructure. And when you’re talking about a demand-driven network, then it becomes massively scalable, you’re then not talking about waiting for an operator to come to your country and come to your area, to come to your village to install the network. That community funding, the ability for people to own their own part of the network allows it to have explosive growth. So that’s really the heart of our network, and that’s where blockchain is needed.

Micky (00:46:09):

Just to add to that as well, you’ve got far more granular applications of it, your fraud mitigation, there’s huge problems with robocalling around the world, there’s huge problems with mismatch billing systems, there’s huge problems with understanding where your data goes, who’s using it. There’s massive implementations that can be made to make the system far more transparent, fair and less risky for users to use. Ultimately, it’s all of our data flowing across there. We speak mostly not in GSM these days. Typically, we speaking on OTT apps. Yeah, we can get into this at a later date, but we take security with extreme importance, and blockchain allows us to do this.

Micky (00:46:54):

But to provide tools for the industry as well for the global existing legacy telcos things that they can’t do, like being able to put a list of 500 million telephone numbers that have fraud numbers across the distributed ledger of 60,000 computers to be able to quickly check from any point in the world, any place, any interconnection if something’s a fraud. They can’t do that right now. So with the help of the community, with Earth Node owners, these are things that we can do. We can completely transform the industry and make it a much safer place, even for the legacy world too.

Jose (00:47:26):

That makes sense. And so when you did decide to implement blockchain, how did you go about making the decision to kind of use Cardano? Because obviously, Cardano is a kind of a controversial one in the industry. They have a lot of, I guess, hype in a sense behind them, but haven’t yet shipped sort of the smart contract part of the product, but they’re also, I think you found, the only kind of solution you could use for this given the connections in Africa or that side of things. But we’d love to hear from you what options did you consider and why did you settle on Cardano?

Alan (00:47:59):

Look, I mean, we spent a long time analyzing the different options. Ethereum, I’m sure a lot of people will ask why you didn’t go to Ethereum. There’s Ethereum, EOS, Binance Chain, all these different options that were available few years ago. At that point, Ethereum, it’s a solid platform, but it wasn’t scalable, and we foresaw the issues that are becoming apparent now where they’re trying to transition to the proof of stake network. It’s a work in progress, and it’s not there yet. It’s still probably a couple of years before we know how successful that will be. So we saw the issues and what could happen. Also, when you’re trying to transition an existing network and proof of work and proof of stake has got a whole other set of issues.

Alan (00:48:49):

So we looked at different options, and then we looked at some of the other options, which actually weren’t properly decentralized, whether it was EOS, Binance Chain, or some of the others, which we didn’t feel that were properly decentralized networks, and for us, Cardano was… We could see where we wanted to be in two years’ time, and where they were going to be in two years’ time, and as you can see, our timing looks [inaudible 00:49:17] very spot on. Their smart contracts and we knew the timescale, they’re always forthright about when it was going to happen, and now it’s happening. Smart contracts in September, and we’ve seen as a team, they’ve got the high assurance code, it’s decentralized properly, open source. It’s the same level of scientific rigor as mission critical systems. I did study formal methodology in university, it was one of my funnier dissertations.

Alan (00:49:51):

So I’ve always wanted that when we deploy a network, it’s one which is going to work. It’s not like Ethereum where you deploy it, and then you check for bugs in the code. This has been formally proven that it’s going to work when it goes live, and when you’re building a financial network and the financial system and foundational infrastructure, you want to know that it is going to work from the start. So those are some of the reasons. Obviously, the commercial side, it’s great team. They’re focused on Africa. That’s where we’re going this. There’s huge amount of synergy, and the PRISM platform being part of the architecture, again, going into telecoms, it all fits, and that’s really why even today, if you look at some of the other options that are on the table, whether it’s Solana or Avalanche or Polkadot, or some of the other chains that are there, Cardano’s still our number one choice.

Jose (00:50:51):

And how does your blockchain implementation actually work? What parts of the network are going to run on-chain versus off-chain? I mean, I don’t know much about the kind of Cardano architecture or the one that you’re using, whether it’s a private implementation or you’re going to be settling to the public chain. Just curious on some details on that.

Alan (00:51:09):

Sure. World Mobile Token, it is a Cardano native asset. Now, that is live today. It’s already minted, and you don’t need to wait for smart contracts. It’s already there. The way the native assets work on Cardano, it’s more equal system in every native assets rather than having to require a smart contract to operate and having a higher cost to operate. They’re all sort of equal, and they use the same fees. So World Mobile Token is a native asset on Cardano, that’s the first thing, but we’re building a hybrid public private chain, the public chain is Cardano, and the private chain, it’s effectively as a side chain. Cardano will be the public financial settlement layer, and the private chain serves as the distributed private data layer, so things like load quality of service data, user data, which needs to be private in the private data vaults, which would be on that permission chain. Yeah, so that’s kind of high level where it fits together.

Jose (00:52:23):

Okay, that makes sense. And what’s the status of the build for that, is it sort of fully built out, ready to roll out, or what’s the situation there?

Alan (00:52:33):

Well, look. I mean, we’ve been piloting the solution over the last few years, but really now the latest iteration, which is actually integrating Cardano, the native assets have only been on their main net for a couple of months. So now we’re integrating that. It’s planned to be complete by the end of the year with the digital ID and full commercial rollout. So we’re not dependent on a smart contract piece to launch. However, we will add smart contracts as they become available.

Micky (00:53:04):

Just to add to all of that as well: There’s nobody more impressive than IOHK or IOG. When I went to meet them three years ago, there’s a guy called James Bowater, I think we’re mutual friends. He introduced us to Charles Hoskinson. So he said, “Come up to Edinburgh. You’ve got to meet this guy. He’s Africa-centric as well, and he’s taking the steady approach and the peer-reviewed academic approach.” So I went up there, I listened to the Plutus Fest with Alan, and we sat down at a table and all the teams were really accommodating. I think there was about 70 IOHK people there. So we went into a pub, had a few beers, and then Charles came across and he said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Well, I’m building a network in Africa to connect the unconnected, and I know that you want to bank the unbanked, but it seems that we’re a perfect symbiotic relationship to work together because it’s going to be pretty hard to have a digital system, financial inclusion system without internet, without some point of internet.”

Micky (00:54:04):

So I think he looked at me like, “Hold on. You crazy,” but he was ready. He had John O’Connor in Ethiopia. This is what I mean by IOHK being serious about it. They had their Head Africa Operations already moved out there, living out there, and within a couple of weeks, months… I think weeks even. John had gone up to Andy in Tanzania. But what I saw there at the Edinburgh University, what I saw from Charles that they are seriously committed, right? This is not just some genius kids in a bedroom working with other less genius kids to create a genius chain. This is somebody that is taking this approach to say, “Okay. Well, I’m going to get it right the first time and when I launch, there’s going to be no going back.” So they’re serious. I don’t know how they’ve got the vaporware joke in the industry, but I think everybody’s about to find out with real-world applications like World Mobile.

Jose (00:54:55):

That makes sense. Okay. And in terms of user acquisition strategy, when are you planning to roll this network out and where are you starting? How’s all that happening?

Andrew (00:55:06):

Sure. I mean, the customer acquisition strategy is really to start with the unconnected. So we’ve spoken about if there’s no connectivity or barely any phone reception, what better place to start? When we roll into a village, we put up the network. We don’t even need any marketing because the news is going to spread like wildfire. Once we’ve targeted the unconnected, we’re going to move towards the under-connected, a great example is the transport lines. People sat on a bus for an hour, two hours each way from the suburbs into the city center. They’re spending a lot of money on data bundles and experiencing a very poor service. So we’re going to mash up those districts and provide them a really affordable, high quality service. And then later, that’s when we focus on the connected areas. So we’ll absorb users from the other networks, and they’ll be attracted by the vastly reduced overall costs and just the greater products. I mean, it’s an irresistible product at the end of the day. Twice as fast, half the cost.

Andrew (00:56:15):

So at the moment, we are licensed in Tanzania and we’re rolling out in Zanzibar, and that’s really our focus immediately. So we’re calling that Phase 1A, so we’re doing a lot of work in Stone Town, we’ve done work in schools as well, and then really the bulk of Phase 1, the larger part of that is we’re going to focus on the rest of the Zanzibar archipelago. It’s two islands, and Unguja is the main island, which is famous for the tourism, and you have Pemba, which is a very rural, beautiful, lots of small little islands dotted around everywhere. There’s crystal blue water, but there’s no connectivity, and it’s very rural way of life. And we’ll also focus on Dar es Salaam, and we’re looking at half a million users in this Phase 1.

Andrew (00:57:08):

And then Phase 2, we move to the under-connected users. A lot of our focus is on educational areas, so schools, universities that are experiencing poor quality of service, and our business model is to open up a new world. So what better place then to bring the world to places like schools and universities where they needed? And then we have Phases 3 and 4. So Phase 3 is when we really focus on leveraging the blockchain and the shared economy to scale our network, and this is the explosive growth that we’re talking about. This is when millions of users are going to come on the network, and they’re going to pay for the expansion because it’s their infrastructure and they’re going to be the ones that reap the rewards of owning these nodes.

Andrew (00:57:52):

so we’re talking about farming unions, cooperatives, mini-grid companies, solar home system companies, you name it. There’s massive appetite, not only to enjoy the rewards, but to bring connectivity to these people’s users, farmers, communities, etc. And then Phase 4, it’s copy and paste. So we’re already doing some work in Kenya, and we’re setting up a massive African rollout strategy for next year in many African countries, and then later the rest of the world.

Jose (00:58:30):

That’s awesome. And so is it right to think of sort of there’s a World Mobile business, and then there’s a World Mobile network, and to start with, there’s going to be the network and as a business, you’re going to be the main actor and kind of node provider to prove out the kind of system works and then you’re kind of opening it up so that anyone can do it and scaling in the way that you mentioned with the kind of distributed architecture?

Micky (00:58:55):

It’s easy to make the analogy with Uber in the sense that there’s a B2B side where anyone can become a node owner and operate and work at any point. As soon as people start asking us, “Hey, how do we operate these nodes?” They’re welcome to start buying and deploying. We’re reading that software. On the other side, the subscriber side of the business, where people coming and they’re paying for services, they paying for connectivity and… Yes, there’s two ways of looking at it, so B2B and B2C essentially, right? There’s the earn and there’s the spend side of stuff.

Jose (00:59:33):

That makes sense. And talk a bit about the long-term vision as well because I know this has been a long time coming for you. You’ve been working on this for five years, and I’m not sure, I think the majority of the team’s been working on this?

Micky (00:59:45):

I think we’ve been building up to this for forever. It certainly feels like this. Everything that we’ve done seems like it’s come to being ready for this very moment. Every person I’ve met, it seems like it’s meant to be, and as soon as we found this problem, then… It came from privacy, first of all. Okay, I’m a mobile network operator, I’ve worked on projects for some really serious entities, top 10, and I see what happens and I see the way the industry’s going and I wanted to build a private chain, and then I woke up in a sweat one night and said, “Look. Well, as much as I want to be private, we…” We using Zencastr right now, right? We use Facebook, Google. We use all these different things. It’s not convenient to be private, so I wanted to say, “How can I reset or reboot the system?” So then that’s how world Mobile was really born.

Micky (01:00:36):

And then you find out that that half the planet is unconnected, and you’re like, “Holy shit! This is not cool. This is something that’s a huge problem, and hold on. I fixed this. Our team, Alan, and us and Ian and us, and Andy and us. We’ve done these things. We’ve connected borders. We’ve done cool things that other people may not have done or may not know what happens,” and then when you see yourself be able to connect these places really cheap, then of course, there’s a long-term vision, right? You see that the African telecommunications market is 54 billion, 60 billion, $65 billion, is gaining 10% market share by 2030. It’s a huge, huge, huge market, and then you’re talking about adding digital identity. You’re talking not about telecoms anymore. You are talking about banking the unbanked, you are talking about insurance, you are talking about a gateway to services and to an access to products and commerce that people have never had before. So now you’re talking about a much bigger industry than $3 trillion, which is what the telecom industry is today. So it’s super exciting.

Micky (01:01:39):

The long-term vision is as big as you want to get. So what we’re hoping is we’ve got the head start, we’ve been working for the last three years, officially, to build the sharing economy and to build World Mobile and to get all the policymakers and the regulators and things in line and in place where we need to be. And the long-term vision is that we’re going to become a huge, huge telecom operator with a massive footprint in Africa first of all, where the demand is massive, and through the continent, but then there will be a downloadable software that anybody can build a mobile network and profit from, and will be able to go into each country, acquire the licenses, get the regulation, create the sharing economy, create the backhaul with local partners, and all of a sudden, boom.

Micky (01:02:23):

The long-term vision is to have hundreds of millions of users on this network, and I think it’s really possible when you’re pushing the resources back into the network and people are earning from it. That’s the magic here. The magic is sharing, something that’s not in the DNA of the existing mobile network operators for whatever reason, or all the big tech companies. So the genius here is that part. It’s not the technology, it already exists. It’s not the deployment, it’s already possible. It’s not the industry or learning curve, people know how to use mobile money, especially on the African continent more than anywhere else.

Micky (01:02:56):

The real opportunity and the real long-term vision is to create a sharing economy that can just make this network literally explode and cover the planet with a network that the people own, a network that is self-data governed, and a network where economic freedom of choice exists. And that all sounds flowery and all lovely and sweet and beautiful, but hey, guess what? It’s happening, and it can really happen, and it can change everything. It can put us back in control. Instead of value being extracted from us, we can then have value in our network, we can then have accountability for the people to hold on to and us our data.

Micky (01:03:28):

And World Mobile Chain doesn’t see a single thing of this. We don’t want to see that. All we want to do is take a transaction from every action that happens on the network and feed it back into the economy, and a lot of it, so that the economy continues to grow. The more the economy grows, the better it is for us, the better it is for every single person on this planet. Every one in two can’t speak to each other. They can’t communicate in this supposed global village. That is crazy. Right? So their solution is Loon. Google, they shut down their project, they spent billions of dollars, hundreds of millions annually on the Loon project in Africa, in Kenya, right next door to us actually, and they shut it down because it’s not just money that fixes this, right? It’s sharing the problem, it’s allowing other people to profit and benefit from it.

Micky (01:04:13):

So the long-term vision is huge. The team always telling me, “Micky, calm down, calm down,” but I think we can do it. I think we can bring on hundreds of millions of users, and it won’t be Micky that decides this in the end, it will be the network that governs itself, and it’ll be the network grows itself, and that’s it. So it’s huge, and we’re here to kickstart it.

Jose (01:04:33):

Nice. Yeah, it’s awesome. I mean, we couldn’t touch on everything, because it’s such a big idea, but obviously, one of the cool things is that as you’re expanding this network, you’re also expanding this currency, right? Because everyone who uses this network in order to acquire the credits has to actually acquire this sort of stable coin that you’ve built, works, and so then you have everyone having currency, everyone having identity, you can start building these financial services that you’ve talked about. I mean, there’s kind of a lot of dependencies, but if it works, it is a massive, massive idea. I don’t know if Alan or Andrew, you want to add anything to that vision side, or?

Andrew (01:05:12):

I mean, just… I’ve grown up in Africa, I’ve seen a lot of the challenges that the communities have to deal with. I even started a business to try and help electrify the homes of farmers in Tanzania who… They work all year and they make all the tea and the coffee for the world, and they earn $300 a year, that’s it, and I thought that electricity was the thing that was going to unlock these homes because now they don’t have to have candles and they don’t have to walk three and a half Ks to charge their phone, but what I learned was without the connectivity piece…

Andrew (01:05:56):

Energy is 10%. The connectivity is what takes you to the 100% of being able to take that farmer instead of selling to a trader who pre-buys his crop early, maybe he gets 50 cents or 30 cents on the dollar, now he can sell direct to a cooperative union, and I really believe that these guys are going to be earning double very, very quickly. And that’s really impactful, and that’s what these communities really need actually. It’s not a helping hand, it’s not charity, it’s just the ability to connect to the world. They’re smart, they’re hardworking, and they were there already and they’ve got a lot of value to give the world, and we want to unlock that. We want to open up that world.

Alan (01:06:38):

Yeah, and I think from my point of view, I think when you actually go out and deliver a pilot project, and you see what it… You make a set of assumptions about what’s going to happen, and then when it does something very different… When you deliver connectivity to a village who are normally at the end of the line, the people in the village who it’s always the last one to get service. If you flip the model around, and they become the first to get service, and it’s a service you’re not having to sell to them, it’s a service which they need it. You’re completely cutting down any cost of acquisition because the user base, as has been said, it’s half the planet is not connected, so they don’t have a service today. If you make them the priority, and you deliver a good quality service, the next village up is looking down and saying, “Well, hang on a second. Why have they got good service and we don’t?”

Alan (01:07:39):

Now normally, it’s the other way around. So your business model is completely flipped on its head, and it drives the demand all the way up to the cities. Things like that, it makes the cost of the acquisition much lower and the marketing very different to existing models. And the other thing is when you’re delivery, you’re trying things that other operators, they won’t do because they’re down a well-defined path that they won’t come out of. We can try new things and we can deliver things that other people won’t try, and when you create that innovation, that’s really where you can challenge existing models.

Jose (01:08:21):

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Obviously, that is a huge project. There’s a lot of different pieces to it. For people that want to find out more and whose interest was piqued by kind of this conversation, where would you recommend they go and where should they start to kind of read more about how this works and what you’re doing?

Alan (01:08:37):

So the website is great place to start. There’s a huge amount of resource there, and links to the social media and community through that website.

Jose (01:08:49):

Awesome. Any parting words?

Micky (01:08:51):

It’s super exciting, isn’t it? I hear it and I get excited, and you’re about to see what’s going to happen. There’s timescales that Andy was telling you about in the rollout, they’re not three, four or five years away. This is something that you’re going to see a main net launch before the end of this year, you’ve got six months to go, and then into next year, we’re going to… Have got the shared economy, at least partially, and then that’s when we start to launch tethered balloons and we start to launch the drones. And there’s 20 million people approximately, give or take, in Tanzania that need connectivity.

Micky (01:09:24):

You start to address those with half the price of the existing market with connectivity, a combination, a hybrid network from the sky and meeting them on the ground for the heavy usage, all of a sudden, you’ve connected the unconnected and you’ve provided the solution for connecting the already connected that’s much better and much cheaper and much faster. So this could, and I will make every effort to make it one of the fastest deployments of the mobile networks that’s ever happened in history, and to show people that we don’t have to wait until 2030 to connect the other side of the world. I think we can do it much faster. And time will tell, but it’s going to take too long. We’re talking six months, 12 months, 18 months before we see whether the proof in the madness.

Jose (01:10:05):

That’s awesome. Yeah, thanks very much for being here, guys. It was a pleasure.

Micky (01:10:09):

It’s always a pleasure to speak to you, Jose, man.

Andrew (01:10:10):

Thanks for having us.

Alan (01:10:13):

Jose, it’s been fun.

Show Notes:

(3:22) (First Question) – Andrew, Mickey, Alan’s Background.

(9:45) – The problem / almost half the world is still unconnected.

(11:25) – How WMC’s solution works / how legacy infrastructure & solutions work.

(20:08) – What is World Mobile Network.

(27:17) – What infrastructure will WMC be putting down versus working with others and being kind of an aggregator.

(34:00) – Thoughts on MMOs.

(35:30) – Thoughts on Telecom.

(42:30) – Why WMC choose to use blockchain / what is it that it enables that WMC couldn’t achieve without it.

(47:50) – Why did WMC settle on Cardano / how WMC blockchain implementation works.

(52:43) – Customer acquisition strategy / when WMC will start to roll this network out.

(59:53) – WMC’s long-term vision.

(1:08:40) – Where to find WMC.