ITU lists challenges of telecom rural connectivity

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THE International Telecommunications Union, ITU, is worried that rural and remote areas of many countries worldwide continue to be sparsely covered in terms of broadband connectivity.

ITU said major challenges for rural and remote area connectivity include inadequate supporting infrastructure, difficult terrain, illiteracy, high cost of installation of information and communication technology, ICT, infrastructure, and policy issues.

The ITU noted that the recent growth of teledensity in urban areas, fuelled by mobile technology, has meant that the already existing digital gap between rural and urban areas has now widened.

In its latest study, the UN body recommended ways that regulators, policymakers and operators can change that, noting that emerging markets, including Nigeria, among others must brace up for the challenge of improving connectivity.

The union argued that regulators and policymakers must be able to enhance broadband development and rollout in rural areas, and urged easing of regulatory requirements for community network operators; and promote tax and customs duty breaks to enable more investment in infrastructure. It also called for enhanced transparency and ease of doing business to encourage investment in infrastructure, and need to focus on complementary access networks that service underserved markets.

It further advised governments to recognise that market forces do not always address connectivity for rural and remote areas. “Therefore, governments should promote investment– that is, public, private, partnership models, PPP, – in relation to both supply and demand creation pertaining to broadband network infrastructure deployment for rural and remote areas.”

Furthermore, ITU called on governments to create an enabling environment that includes the elaboration and deployment of incentives for investment in broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas.

According to the body, governments should make land available for the installation of mobile towers and have clear policies and precision in the role of each government department in the document approval chain for facilitating installations.

“‘Dig once’ policies should be implemented in relation to the laying of fibre in order to make the cost of installation affordable, while at the same time keeping service fees low. Policymakers are encouraged to ensure that ICT training is incorporated into the school curriculum as digital literacy also stimulates demand,” ITU said.

With these challenges, rural and remote areas, including those in Nigeria are often not considered viable business cases by telecommunication operators. In Nigeria today, broadband penetration is put at 39.5 percent with some 75 million of the over 200 million having access to the facility, which largely resides in the urban areas.

– May 29, 2020 @ 16:25 GMT |

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