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Network Infrastructure and Policy

Expanding rural network coverage of mobile internet by promoting regulatory and technical best practice

Access to mobile internet requires mobile coverage, which is provided by cell towers over a surrounding radius, a cell, which is interlinked via backhaul to create a mobile network that can provide internet connectivity. Today, approximately 85 percent of the world’s population is covered by a 2G signal and exceeds 70 percent for all countries. For faster mobile broadband 3G technology, the coverage is 76 percent by population with a concentration in urban areas.

Investment into expansion of network coverage is based on a business case calculation of forecast capital expenditure and operating expenditure against revenues. Rural, developing world networks can have high costs due to large geographic expanses with low population density requiring many cell towers, poor logistics infrastructure and lack of electricity grid infrastructure. Forecast revenues are lower due to reduced population density in rural villages compared to cities and lower revenues expected from rural customers.

As part of the Network Infrastructure and Policy workstream, the GSMA’s Digital Inclusion programme is working with operators and governments to address the technological and regulatory factors which make mobile internet coverage uneconomical.

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