Sub-Saharan Africa today still has the lowest proportion of mobile internet subscribers globally – 36% of the population are still not covered by mobile broadband, and 43% are covered but not using digital services. This means that only 22% of the population are active mobile data users. The lack of mobile internet coverage in rural areas is the consequence of an economic challenge: deploying infrastructure in remote areas can be twice as expensive as in urban areas, while revenue opportunities can be just a fraction. The challenge is not only to bring mobile internet coverage to rural areas, but to do so in a commercially sustainable manner.
In October 2018, with support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the GSMA will launch its Connected Society Innovation Fund for Rural Connectivity. This fund aims to support innovative new technology solutions for connecting unserved rural communities, thereby helping to increase digital inclusion. The funded projects will test innovative ways to deploy mobile broadband networks in rural areas, and look to demonstrate commercially sustainable models that can be scaled and replicated in similar environments.
Applicants will be required to propose innovative commercially sustainable and scalable mobile internet coverage solutions in preselected rural areas. These solutions will be interconnected with the core network of one of the partner MNOs working with the GSMA, and the fund will consist grants of up to £300,000 each.
Successful grantees and their partner MNO will also receive advisory support from the GSMA, which includes analytical support to identify commercially viable sites for deployment, and full technical and commercial performance reports.
We are particularly excited to receive applications that are innovative in at least one of the following areas: active base station technology, passive infrastructure, energy, backhaul, operation and maintenance, or the business model.
Applications for the fund will be open in October 2018, do not miss this opportunity!
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