Mobile operator groups serving the Middle East and Africa have agreed to cooperate on network infrastructure sharing initiatives in an effort to provide mobile broadband access to unserved rural communities in the region. The operators also intend to drive down the cost of mobile services for consumers across the regions.
Trade association the GSMA announced that the agreement followed a meeting at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, which involved senior leaders from the eight groups involved in the initiative.
The groups include: Bharti Airtel Africa, Etisalat Group, MTN Group, Ooredoo Group, Orange Africa, Middle East and Asia, STC Group, Vodafone Group Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific and Zain Group. Together the operator groups cover 551 million mobile connections across Africa and the Middle East.
In the GSMA’s view, regulatory frameworks should encourage flexible commercial sharing arrangements and offer access to government-owned assets at preferential rates in order to accelerate 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 at the GSMA.
“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.”
Manoj Kohli, managing director at Bharti Enterprises and chair of the Public Policy Committee of the GSMA board added that the 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,” he added.