Nokia has unveiled a new business model for helping rural areas, particularly in Africa, get connected.
Based on a GSM Access Point Model known as the Village Connection solution, it revolves around an innovative “mini network” concept. Calls calls made locally within a village are connected locally via a BTS antenna connected to a PC and a battery and an optional solar powered panel.
This model will allow an entrepreneur living in a village anywhere in Africa to set up his own mini-network on the roof of his house or business – and to provide and sell airtime.
Nokia unveiled this system at the Connect Africa Summit in Rwanda.
Lauri Kivinen, head of corporate affairs at Nokia Siemens Networks, adds that regulators and other stakeholders need to co-operate to achieve common goal of connecting Africa.
“Consumers rely on commitment and investment from the public sector regulatory bodies to drive best practice initiatives; on civil society to invest in social initiatives; and on the private sector to invest in and expand the market to enable affordable connectivity," says Kivinen.
"Only with all of these stakeholders involved, committed and active will ICT adoption in Africa continue to grow at the rate that’s necessary to bridge the digital divide and achieve the UN’s Millennium Development goals.”
Nokia's vision for Africa focuses focuses on connecting rural areas affordably village-by-village, in line with its vision which appeal for 5-billion people to have access to telecommunications by 2015.
"By 2015, five billion people will be connected via Internet-based applications; with operators using a multitude of business models to offer broadband everywhere," says Kivinen.
"Mobile will remain much more prominent than fixed line. Already in Africa, since 2000, we have seen mobile connections grow from 19-million then to 190-million in 2006 – much more than the 160million fixed line connections in 2000 and 30-million fixed lines in Africa today.
"Mobile is the best way to offer connectivity in Africa as millions are out of reach of fixed networks. Mobile phones don’t require a power supply; can also be used by people with low literacy levels and include many features in one device. They also enable socio-economic progress for all by providing job opportunities; improved public services and linkage to further infrastructure development
"These benefits are first felt at a micro-level and eventually lead to higher GDP growth at a macro level.”
Kivinen adds that 3-billion people in the world live in rural areas. "The challenge is to connect them affordably to meet the cash they have on hand. This means that the cost of network ownership (found to be the ultimate driver of mobile penetration) and operations needs to be reduced.
"When services go down in remote areas, toolkits that are easy to use need to be on hand. It should not require an expert who needs to travel from the city to fix the problem. Options that allow anyone to manage their spending are also needed, and, for example, to recharge airtime via their phone even with only small denominations available.”