Driving the Digital Revolution: Collaboration is Key to Closing Coverage and Connectivity Gaps

28 September 2020, London: Over the last decade, mobile has connected more than 2.5 billion people to the internet, with mobile broadband coverage reaching in excess of 90% of the world’s population. Despite this rapid expansion of mobile internet infrastructure, there is still a coverage gap of more than 600 million people, who live without access to mobile internet connectivity and the vital benefits it provides.

Today we share the GSMA’s blueprint for closing the gap, reflecting on success stories around the globe and how mobile technology can help reduce inequality.

We take a closer look at how governments and regulators have successfully collaborated with mobile operators in France, Ghana, New Zealand, Peru, Tunisia and the UK. The ‘Driving the Digital Revolution with Improved Mobile Coverage’ paper offers policy recommendations for addressing key coverage challenges, including spectrum availability and pricing; licence terms and conditions; planning approval processes; infrastructure sharing; and state interventions.

“The continued disruption and impact of COVID-19 is still being felt across the world, making closing the digital divide ever-more pressing, especially to protect the social, political and economic lives of remote communities. Greater partnership between governments and operators is urgently needed if we are to address these detrimental gaps in coverage.” said Stéphane Richard, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Orange, and Chair of the GSMA.

“Closing the digital divide is essential to delivering transformational social and economic opportunities to underserved communities around the world. The coverage gap disproportionately affects people in low- and middle-income countries, especially those living in rural areas,” said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at GSMA. “For example, just one percent of the population in North America lack mobile broadband coverage, while the gap in Sub-Saharan Africa is approximately thirty percent. We hope that the GSMA’s blueprint for closing these coverage gaps will inspire governments, regulators and industry to work together in shaping a future where coverage and access to digital services are sustainable and universal.”

Making rural network operations sustainable will require real partnership among governments, regulators, and mobile operators, with clear objectives for driving better coverage. The need to reduce policy and regulatory barriers, to incentivise investment, and to examine new sources of financing and shared deployment models are just some of the options that could deliver lasting impact.

Connecting more people, wherever they may live, is a core part of the GSMA’s mission. To read more on the successful use cases, detailed breakdowns of the coverage gaps and the human impact from a lack of connectivity, go to the GSMA’s coverage policy hub, available here.

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About GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces the industry-leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Shanghai, as well as the Thrive Series of regional conferences.