A large percentage of the world’s population remains offline. Closing this mobile coverage gap is not a technical challenge. It is primarily an economic challenge.
Uncovered populations typically live in rural locations with low population densities, low per capita income levels and weak or non-existent enabling infrastructure such as electricity and high capacity fixed communications networks, all profound business challenges for mobile network expansion.
This GSMA study considers the challenges and opportunities facing operators who seek to bridge the digital divide and connect the remaining 4.2 billion people still offline globally. It identifies the key policy enablers to help unlock rural coverage as:
- Cost effective access to low frequency spectrum that can reduce, by as much as 50%, the number of base stations required for rural coverage;
- Regulatory support for all forms of infrastructure sharing to enable operators to share the costs of network expansion (reduction by 50-80%) without compromising competition in service provision;
- Non-discriminatory access to public infrastructure to level the playing field for all market participants;
- Streamlined planning approval processes while respecting environmental and community impact considerations;
- Flexibility on license conditions for quality of service in rural and remote locations where metrics compliance (ex. Network liability, dropped call rates etc.) can be hard to honor due to unreliable power and backhaul capacity;
- Realistic position on competition policy that is consistent with wider policy goals and reflects the economic realities of investments in infrastructure-based businesses.
The study also puts the impact of mobile coverage gap in economic and social context, explains the economics of network coverage expansion and provides examples of industry solutions and network infrastructure sharing from mobile operators to close the coverage gap. The document also includes the GSMA’s Infrastructure Economics toolkit (IET) to help operators and government bodies discuss and examine a range of solutions without disclosing confidential information.
Read the full study here: