GSMA announces infrastructure sharing initiative across the Middle East and North Africa

Initiative aims to enhance use of network infrastructure to connect underserved communities

Quoting selectively from the GSMA’s press release; at a high-level meeting at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, senior leaders from eight major mobile operator groups, covering 551 million mobile connections across Africa and the Middle East, announced a plan to cooperate on network infrastructure sharing initiatives that recognise the profound impact of mobile broadband and Internet services on the citizens of both regions. The participating operators have made this commitment in order to provide Internet and mobile broadband access to unserved rural communities and drive down the cost of mobile services for all sections of the population.

“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 Chair of the Public Policy Committee of the GSMA board, who also supports the initiative. “We call on governments to support and encourage the commercial infrastructure sharing arrangements that we aim to propose.”

An impressive roster of senior leaders have attached their names to this infrastructure sharing initiative:

  • Christian de Faria, CEO Africa, Bharti Airtel
  • Ahmad Julfar, Group CEO, Etisalat Group
  • Sifiso Dabengwa, CEO and President, MTN Group
  • Dr. Nasser Marafih, Group CEO, Ooredoo Group
  • Marc Rennard, Senior Executive Vice President, Africa, Middle East and Asia, Orange
  • Abdulaziz A. Alsugair, Chairman and Managing Director, STC Group
  • Serpil Timuray, CEO, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific Region, Vodafone Group
  • Scott Gegenheimer, CEO, Zain Group

TowerXchange contacted the GSMA to learn more about this initiative…

TowerXchange: It’s exciting to read that 8 of the leading operators in MEA plan to cooperate on network sharing initiatives that will accelerate provision of Internet and mobile broadband access to rural communities – can you give us some detail on how these initiatives will work in practice?

Peter Lyons, Director of Public Policy, GSMA:

With the strategic direction now set at the regional level, the next step is for operators to undertake an extensive review of the relevant regulatory, commercial, and technical conditions in each of their operating markets across these 48 countries. For instance, operators will need to identify those markets where there is a lack of regulatory clarity around voluntary network infrastructure sharing arrangements. For its part, the GSMA will offer continuous support for the development of progressive policy environments and national regulatory frameworks that allow for voluntary commercial sharing arrangements.

TowerXchange: What specific steps can governments take to support and encourage infrastructure sharing in MEA, both in terms of regulatory frameworks and in terms of facilitating access to government-owned assets?

Peter Lyons, Director of Public Policy, GSMA:

The regulatory framework of a country should facilitate all types of voluntary infrastructure sharing arrangements, which can involve the sharing of various components of mobile networks, including both so-called passive and active sharing. Governments can help by providing regulatory clarity so that market participants can consider such arrangements.

TowerXchange: Are these initiatives currently focusing solely on passive infrastructure sharing, or is there provision or appetite for active infrastructure sharing or RANsharing in the future?

Peter Lyons, Director of Public Policy, GSMA:

This initiative covers passive infrastructure sharing, and where technically feasible, active infrastructure sharing.

Leave a Reply