Laying the foundation to reach the global goals
There are more than 7 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide and the continued rollout of broadband services is transforming the lives of people across the globe. Yet half the population in developing countries still doesn't have access to the internet. In light of this, the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, has set the target of ensuring that more than 50 percent of people in the developing world are using the internet by 2020.
The UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, which is co-chaired by the ITU and UNESCO, recently launched its flagship report, The State of Broadband 2016: Catalyzing Sustainable Development. The report makes a convincing case for the role of broadband as a catalyst for Sustainable Development and promoting achievement of the SDGs. Yet the progress in reaching the Commission’s targets has been mixed, and there is a clear need for more industry focus and collaboration to bridge the gap between those that have access to the internet and those that don’t.
Let’s take a look at some facts:
Mobile penetration in developing countries is not hindered by a lack of public interest.
In 2010, there were 500 million mobile subscriptions across all of Africa; by the end of 2015 this number doubled to 1 billion. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are some 650 million MBB subscriptions, which we estimate will go up to 770 million in 2021. This will certainly have positive repercussions on the economies of sub-Saharan African nations as their citizens embrace the benefits of connectivity.
Yet one of the key factors holding back the rollout of new networks and services that will provide access to the internet for the most underserved communities around the world is economic viability: an uncertain investment case for the mobile industry coupled with affordability issues for people earning between 1-2 USD per day. From the industry perspective, the challenge is how to ensure demand for bandwidth in order to achieve a positive ROI.
At Ericsson we're committed to bringing higher quality connectivity to unserved and underserved areas, while enabling operators to invest where it will have the most impact, and a low enough cost to make investment in low-ARPU (average revenue per user) markets sustainable.
Pressure to improve cost efficiency
When the business model is uncertain, it becomes a bit of a “if we build it will they come” case. Mobile network operators need to dramatically improve cost-efficiency in order to motivate the investment in capex and opex required to build out coverage. It’s the best way they can leverage their existing investments and create product offerings that address all segments of the market, even the low spending segments. And leveraging existing investments will also ensure economies of scale and thus affordable handset prices.
In order to stimulate investments in developing countries, a new approach to the low-ARPU markets is needed. And that’s precisely what a new suite of solutions announced this week from Ericsson aims to support. It comprises software and hardware that can reduce the total cost of rolling out our total-site solution for mobile broadband ownership by up to 40 percent. At the same time, our latest innovations can improve the user experience by up to 20 times through upgrades to the existing GSM footprint, ensuring that the internet experience is a quality one.
Commitment to helping to boost livelihoods
Today at the Business Call to Action Annual Forum, I shared Ericsson’s commitment to Connect the Unconnected.
By launching solutions that will enable the rollout of mobile broadband coverage to the three billion people who are either underserved or lack access, Ericsson is effectively helping to boost livelihoods; promoting financial inclusion and gender equality; improving access to health, education, government services and more; and supporting the Connect 2020 target.
Bridging the “digital divide” is a challenge both for the public sector and the telecoms industry and a crucial one that needs to be addressed if we are to meet not only ITU’s Connect 2020 target but also the universally recognized UN Sustainable Development Goals, which Ericsson is working hard to support with a number of high-level initiatives on a global level.
Broadband rollout in less-developed countries means millions of people can experience connectivity and the benefits that come with it. Only by addressing the concerns of mobile network operators in these markets will we connect so many in such a short time.
With more than 40% of the world’s mobile traffic carried over Ericsson networks, we are committed to serving the next wave of internet users in developing markets by making mobile broadband access more affordable and accessible for all.