Wednesday , December 1 2021
ITU, Regulators and MNOs

ITU Tasks Regulators, Operators As Teledensity, Mobile Technology Widen Existing Digital Gap

As the existing digital gap widens, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has tasked regulators, mobile networks operators (MNOs) to enhance broadband development and rollout in rural areas.

ITU raised this concern as the rural and remote areas of many countries continue to be sparsely covered in terms of broadband connectivity.

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The International body identified major challenges for rural and remote area connectivity include inadequate supporting infrastructure, difficult terrain, illiteracy, high cost of installation of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and policy issues.

For many of these reasons, rural and remote areas are often not considered viable business cases by telecommunication operators.

Meanwhile, the recent growth of teledensity in urban areas, fueled by mobile technology, has meant that the already existing digital gap between rural and urban areas has now widened, ITU pointed out.

However, the new ITU study paper recommends ways that regulators, policymakers and operators can change that.

Recommendation for Regulators

Following the outcomes of a workshop held at ITU in Geneva in September 2019, ITU recommended that regulators should ease regulatory requirements for community network operators.

As part of its solutions for broadband and connectivity in the rural and remote areas, ITU tasks regulators to focus on complementary access networks that service underserved markets.

Caecilia Nyamutswa, Rapporteur of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) Study Group 1 highlighted the importance of making sure that “universal funds are also putting up infrastructure that can be shared by various operators to make the burden lighter for them,” which can help remote areas to be connected.

Nyamutswa explains that when governments provide spectrum to the operators, they should make the conditions attractive for the operators to move into the rural and remote areas. “And also, just to open their minds, and license difference types of technologies in the rural areas,” she adds.

Recommendations for Government and Policy Makers

With regard to policy on broadband development in rural areas, the body charge policymakers to promote tax and customs duty breaks to enable more investment in infrastructure.

“Enhance transparency and ease of doing business will encourage investment in infrastructure.

“Governments, for example, should recognize that market forces do not always address connectivity for rural and remote areas. Therefore, governments should promote investment– that is, public, private, partnership models (PPPs) – in relation to both supply and demand creation pertaining to broadband network infrastructure deployment for rural and remote areas.

“Governments should also create an enabling environment that includes the elaboration and deployment of incentives for investment in broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas.

“Governments should make land available for installation of mobile towers and have clear policies and precision in the role of each Government department in the document approval chain for facilitating installations.

‘Dig once’ policies should be implemented in relation to the laying of fibre, in order to make the cost of installation affordable, while at the same time keeping service fees low.

Also, ITU noted that policy makers are encouraged to ensure that ICT training is incorporated into school curriculum as digital literacy also stimulates demand.

Recommendations for Operators

On the part of the operators, ITU stressed that to bridge the digital divide as well as promote rural connectivity, MNOs are to invest in research and development to find cost effective last mile connectivity solutions for rural and remote areas.

As part of the guidelines, Operators are charged to extend or densify networks through low cost solutions.

ITU also recommended the use alternative energy to power tower sites while upgrading 2G network sites to 3G or 4G.

ITU emphasized that Operators should embrace smaller operators, virtual network operators and community networks run by local community businesses, as complementary rather than view them as competition.

“Make use of partnerships with governments and Universal Service funds, when deploying networks to rural and remote areas. Usage of hotspots for public areas are to be promoted.

“Encourage and implement infrastructure sharing”, ITU


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