Eight mobile telecom companies operating in the Middle East and Africa have agreed to share their mobile infrastructure in an initiative that aims to boost broadband penetration in rural areas. The move will expectedly result in lower infrastructure costs and make mobile services much affordable in the region where the penetration rate is one of the lowest in the world at 40%.
GSMA will cooperate with eight big mobile operators in the region that 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. The operators together cover 551 million mobile connections across Africa and the Middle East.
GSMA and the operators will now work together on the legislative changes in the relevant countries, which must be introduced by local authorities to make the initiative operational. Flexible commercial sharing arrangements and access to government-owned assets at preferential rates are essential to extend mobile networks into rural areas, says GSMA.
“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% in Africa and the Middle East, lower than the global average of 47% and much below neighbouring Turkey where the figure stands at 91%.