Global Mobile News: iPhone in China, Solar Phone in Kenya, Mobile Currency

- Apple reached a deal with China Unicom-- China's second largest cell phone operator-- to sell the iPhone in China. Seems like a good move for China Unicom-- they have less than a third the number of customers as China Mobile (the biggest mobile operator in the world, by that metric), but offer a faster, more mature 3G network better suited to the data-intensive iPhone.  This should help China Unicom solidify and grow their market share among China's urban elites, letting China Mobile keep their 500 million (!), mostly low-cost, low-bandwidth customers. 

Safaricom Solar Mobile-Safaricom, Kenya's biggest mobile operator,has just introduced the first solar-charged mobile phone into the Kenyan market.  The solar technology is about a lot more than being green-- for people in rural areas, beyond the reach of the electrical grid, electricity is perhaps the biggest obstacle to mobile use. Charging a phone means sharing a generator, or travelling to a town with reliable electricity.  This solar phone will give millions of rural Kenyans a new way to join the global information network.

- The government of Ghana will not grant licenses to any more mobile network operators, to preclude further crowding of the industry, and to attempt to raise quality of service standards for all operators. Limiting competition doesn't seem like the best path forward here.  A better policy solution would be to force operators to allow customers to keep their phone numbers if they switch carriers-- this would give mobile phone users the power to vote with their Cedis and migrate to the operators with the best service. (via Appfrica)

- In other Ghana news, Globacom, a new mobile phone carrier, is the process of laying high-bandwidth cables that will run from Europe, through Ghana, to Nigeria.  Though very few Ghanaians have landline access to the web, the cable will make internet access faster and more readily available.

- Yesterday, I wrote that Nokia is getting into the mBanking space with a new service. Now, Facebook is beating a path in the same direction, with an early experiment to allow users to pay for services using their cell phones. This seems to be the first step toward a whole new currency traded largely by mobile... Exciting stuff. (via Mobile Active)

- While we were up at Netroots Nation, another convention was going on in Accra-- Maker Faire 2009-- where African innovators and inventors gathered to show off their work-- everything from cassava crushers to mobile apps. Here's a video about the proceedings: