Rural Coverage: Strategies for Sustainability
This series of country-level case studies, published by GSMA Intelligence in collaboration with the GSMA’s Digital Inclusion programme, demonstrates the approaches being deployed by mobile operators and others to address rural coverage – a key barrier in expanding mobile internet access to unreached populations.
Despite the expansion of mobile networks to near-ubiquitous levels, coverage gaps remain: 10% of the global population lack access to basic voice and text services, with around 30% lacking access to 3G/4G mobile broadband internet. The majority of these uncovered populations are low income and live in the rural regions of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, which together account for 3.4 billion of the 4.8 billion people not yet connected to the internet.
The challenge in extending coverage to these areas is to overcome the high fixed costs of laying network infrastructure to serve thinly distributed populations with low purchasing power. Under these circumstances, particularly in the absence of road or electricity grid access, network investments often become uneconomical. Reaching the unreached populations therefore requires both investment and innovation.