On 21 May 2020, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) published a new study on broadband and connectivity solutions for rural and remote areas. The study reviews major backbone telecommunication infrastructure installation efforts and approaches to last-mile connectivity, describes current trends in last-mile connectivity, and outlines policy interventions and recommended last-mile technologies for use in rural and remote areas.
As noted in the study, great strides have been made across the world in the construction and installation of backbone infrastructure to enable both basic connectivity and the roll-out of broadband services to rural and remote areas. However, without effective and efficient last-mile connectivity solutions, rural and remote communities are likely to remain largely unconnected. This is even more so given the challenges of rugged terrain, lack of investment and high ICT infrastructure installation costs.
The study makes the following recommendations for regulators and policy-makers:
- Ease regulatory requirements for community network operators.
- Promote tax and customs duty breaks to enable more investment in infrastructure.
- Enhance transparency and ease of doing business to encourage investment in infrastructure.
- Focus on complementary access networks that serve underserved markets.
Furthermore, the study makes the following recommendations for operators:
- Upgrade 2G network sites to 3G or 4G.
- Extend or densify networks through low-cost solutions.
- Use alternative energy to power tower sites.
- Make use of Wi-Fi hotspots for public areas.
- Embrace smaller operators, virtual network operators and community networks run by local community businesses as complementary, rather than view them as competition.
- Invest in research and development to find cost-effective last-mile connectivity solutions for rural and remote areas.
- Make use of partnerships with governments and universal service funds when deploying networks to rural and remote areas.
- Encourage and implement infrastructure sharing.
The study is accessible here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].