GSMA, Mobile Operators Partner to Improve Mobile Access in Africa

Telecoms

Major mobile operator groups, serving 506 million customers across Africa and the Middle East, are making plans to partner with GSM Association (GSMA) on network infrastructure sharing initiatives.

The initiative, which is coming on the heels of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, will recognise the impact of mobile broadband and Internet services on the citizens of both regions.

The participating operators said the initiative will ensure the provision of Internet and mobile broadband access to unserved rural communities and drive down the cost of mobile services for all sections of the population in Africa and Middle East.

Director-General, GSMA, Anne Bouverot, who made the disclosure in a statement recently, said: "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.

"Unique mobile subscriber penetration is only 40 per cent in Africa and the Middle East, lower than the global average of 47 per cent, so we need to work together to expand the reach of mobile.”

The mobile operator groups that support the initiative includes: Bharti Airtel, Etisalat Group, MTN Group, Ooredoo Group, Orange, Vodafone Group, and Zain Group.

The groups collectively manage 76 mobile network operations across 47 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where many of the unconnected population live in rural areas.

Managing Director, Bharti Enterprises, Manoj Kohli, said: “This cooperation demonstrates that the industry is committed to innovating in order to serve the billions living in the rural areas. We call on governments to support and encourage the commercial infrastructure sharing arrangements that we aim to propose.”

The GSMA’s position is that telecoms regulatory frameworks should encourage flexible commercial sharing arrangements and facilitate access to government-owned assets at preferential rates to help speed up the roll-out of new networks and support the business case to extend mobile networks into rural areas.