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Telecommunications

Mobile World Congress kicks off in Barcelona

Exhibitors at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona have indicated that smartphones will soon no longer cost a small fortune. And new digital payment systems offer even more ways to spend your money.

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday suggested some of the big names in mobile telephony were redoubling efforts to satisfy the growing demand for affordable smartphones in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Finnish company Nokia unveiled a cheaper model in its Lumia range, saying the Lumia 520 would cost from 139 euros ($183) before phone company subsidies. It noted the smartphone would compare favorably with Apple's two-year-old iPhone 4 costing $450, and would close the gap between such high-end devices and smartphones running Google's Android software and selling for less than $100.

"The Lumia 520, we believe, delivers the best performance of any smartphone at this price point," Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop said at the start of the Barcelona fair, the world's biggest mobile devices show in the world.

Ease of payment

The mobile phone industry predicted a boom in subscribers to four million people by 2018, with 3.2 million or nearly half of the world's population already paying for mobile services.

Also at the Barcelona fair, credit card giant MasterCard announced the launch of a new digital payment system letting people use a wide variety of devices to spend their money.

The system called MasterPass stores clients' banking information in a secure cloud online where it is available for the moment of payment. MasterCard said banks and participating stores would be able to issue MasterPass-connected digital wallets to their customers.

hg/rg (AP, AFP, dpa)