At Mobile 360 – Africa, the GSMA announced the launch of the first active infrastructure sharing initiative in East Africa between mobile network operators (MNOs) Airtel, Millicom and Vodacom. The MNOs have committed to launch six 3G pilot sites across the country to test the sustainable provision of mobile broadband services to 13-million underserved people across rural areas of Tanzania.
“This cooperation between the Tanzanian MNOs demonstrates that the industry is committed to connecting the unconnected – particularly the millions living in rural areas – and enabling them to gain access to essential internet services,” said Mats Granryd, director-general of the GSMA. “Digital inclusion has become a strategic priority for operators and the government alike. Building on the 17-million citizens who currently access the internet, this initiative will focus on the remaining 13-million citizens in Tanzania yet to be connected to the internet.”
The mobile telephony market in Tanzania has grown significantly and, as of the end of 2015, there were over 17 million individual mobile subscribers, accounting for 34-million connections across the country. While mobile growth in Tanzania has been substantial, large sections of society are still left out of the digital realm. Tanzania’s population of 49-million people is widely dispersed, with 69 per cent of the population living in rural regions. As population density in rural wards varies significantly, operators have so far been able to deploy their 2G networks to up to 85% of the population, while 3G network deployment is mostly limited to urban areas, resulting in only 35 per cent of the population being covered and able to access the mobile internet.
The agreement is the result of a year-long collaboration between the GSMA Connected Society programme, the three local operators and the government of Tanzania. The pilots are structured around a replicable methodology to roll out mobile broadband networks, providing critical access to the unconnected and the GSMA expects to launch similar projects in other markets over the next three years.
Granryd concludes: “To connect the unconnected, governments with large rural communities need to promote the acceleration of national broadband coverage by releasing low-frequency spectrum, incentivising commercial sharing arrangements to facilitate infrastructure roll-out in rural areas, and creating an enabling taxation environment in order to deliver the mobile internet, even in the most challenging of places.”