Will provide broadband, Internet access in rural areas

As many as seven mobile operators, including Bharti Airtel, are working on infrastructure sharing initiatives to offer Internet and mobile broadband access to rural communities across Africa and West Asia.

This would also help in driving down the cost of mobile services for the 506 million customers they jointly serve.

76 networks

Apart from Airtel, Etisalat Group, MTN Group, Ooredoo Group, Orange, Vodafone Group and Zain Group are the other telecom operators working on the initiative.

The companies collectively manage 76 mobile network operations across 47 countries in Africa and West Asia where many unconnected populations live in rural areas, according to a statement issued by mobile operators’ body GSM Association (GSMA). This follows a high-level meeting at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it said.

“This cooperation demonstrates that the industry is committed to innovating in order to serve the billions living in the rural areas,” said Manoj Kohli, Managing Director of Bharti Enterprises and Chair of the Public Policy Committee of the GSMA board.

“We call on governments to support and encourage the commercial infrastructure sharing arrangements that we aim to propose,” Kohli added.

GSMA is of opinion that telecom regulatory frameworks should encourage flexible commercial sharing arrangements and facilitate access to government-owned assets at preferential rates.

‘Will cut costs’

These would help speed up the roll-out of new networks and support the business case to extend mobile networks into rural areas.

“We are greatly encouraged by the shared vision of mobile operators and the common urgency to find solutions that will drive down the cost of mobile and Internet services and help connect the unconnected,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General of GSMA.

“Unique mobile subscriber penetration is only 40 per cent in Africa and West Asia, lower than the global average of 47 per cent, so we need to work together to expand the reach of mobile,” she added.

(This article was published on March 18, 2014)
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