Seven major mobile operator groups serving 506 million customers across Africa and the Middle East will cooperate on network infrastructure sharing initiatives that would help in providing Internet and mobile broadband access to unserved rural communities and slash mobile services costs.
The companies include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Group, Etisalat Group and MTN Group among others, who together serve 506 million customers across Africa and the Middle East.
''We are greatly encouraged by the shared vision of mobile operators and the common urgency to find solutions that will drive down the cost of mobile and Internet services and help connect the unconnected,'' said Anne Bouverot, director-general at mobile operators' body GSM Association (GSMA).
''Unique mobile subscriber penetration is only 40 per cent in Africa and the Middle East, lower than the global average of 47 per cent, so we need to work together to expand the reach of mobile,'' she added.
The others in the initiative are Ooredoo Group, Orange and Zain Group. These seven operators collectively manage 76 mobile network operations across 47 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where many of the unconnected population live in rural areas.
''This cooperation demonstrates that the industry is committed to innovating in order to serve the billions living in the rural areas,'' said Manoj Kohli, managing director, Bharti Enterprises and chairman of the public policy committee of the GSMA board. ''We call on governments to support and encourage the commercial infrastructure sharing arrangements that we aim to propose.''
The initiative follows a high-level meeting at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it added.