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RURAL TELEPHONY: 94% operators support network sharing

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The debate supporting network infrastructure sharing received a boost as the latest World Telecom Labs (WTL) released Tuesday, provides that 94 per cent of the respondents support ‘sharing’.

Announcing the survey result about rural telephony in Africa, WTL also announced that it has added new components to Vivada (Village Voice and Data), its multi-award winning rural system, so that it can be used to build wholesale networks in remote villages.

Conducted every year, WTL’s surveys provide the latest insight and opinions from operators, ISPs, Governments and vendors building networks across rural Africa.

The full survey can be downloaded from www.wtl.be and shows that, despite the significant investment in Africa’s telecom infrastructure during the past year, the cost of building rural networks combined with low ARPUs and a long ROI continue to be the major barriers to building rural networks.

Unfortunately the survey revealed a general cynicism amongst industry stakeholders.  In answer to the question ‘Which African operators are really trying to build networks in rural areas?’ 33% of respondents said that no operators were really trying whilst 40% said MTN was the most proactive operator.

However, it’s clear that people working in rural telephony are looking for new ways to build commercially sustainable networks with 94% saying that every element of a rural network could and should be shared – and that network sharing, spectrum sharing and neutral wholesale players all offer a way to spread the CAPEX costs of rural networks.

In answer to the question ‘What do you think Governments in Africa should do to speed up the rollout of rural networks?’ the responses were mixed. In WTL’s view, each and any of the ideas below would be welcomed by those who want to build rural networks.

Recommendations: Governments should:

  • Legislate, giving operators targets: 10% of survey respondents.
  • Establish policies to allow all types of infrastructure sharing: 10% of respondents
  • Allow the creation of dedicated MVNOs for rural service: 10%
  • Ensure that roaming agreements in rural areas are in place: 16%
  • Collaborate with local municipalities to support and facilitate the deployment of shared infrastructure: 9%
  • Subsidise the backhaul infrastructure: 12%
  • Reduce the industry-specific supply tax rate: 10%
  • Build open access networks: 11%
  • Offer fair and non-discriminatory access to public infrastructure: 11%
  • Other: 1%

MD of WTL, Leigh Smith, comments, “We hope that the findings of our survey are of interest. We present our results with appropriate commentary, as an indication of current thinking, and as a call to action to urge greater stakeholder collaboration to help break barriers, extend boundaries and deliver more coverage.

It’s clear that the traditional MNO model is not working for rural Africa – and that most people think that network sharing is the way to move forward.

WTL is now able to provide a rural system that can be shared by multiple operators and we are looking forward to working with operators, ISPs, NGOs and Governments who are open to a new rural wholesale model.”

As a result of demand from the industry, WTL has customised its multi-award winning Vivada (Village Voice and Data) system so that wholesale carriers can build sustainable and commercially viable rural networks that can be used by operators of all sizes.

Vivada is suitable for providing services to pre and post-paid customers with varying telecoms budgets including GSM for every type of handset; Wifi connectivity for smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs – and connectivity to cybercafés and hotspot call cabins.

Image Source: IndiLeak

@TechEconomyNG connects past-present-emerging technological impacts on Businesses, People and Cities. All Correspondence to: [email protected]