International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), a global community of companies and organizations focused on infrastructure solutions to advance connectivity worldwide, today announced a new partnership that aims to accelerate the deployment of new and more cost effective cellular networks, particularly in areas of the world that are underserved or unconnected.
While connectivity has already reshaped the lives of those living in developed countries, the infrastructure that underpins it needs to be made available globally so that more people can get connected to digital services.
According to the UN Broadband Commission, almost half – 46.5% – of the world population remain unconnected. Despite the increasing availability of lower-cost technology, the industry has often struggled to provide adequate connectivity in areas where the business case hasn’t been so robust. Even among those who have access, bandwidth constraints prevent many users from experiencing the full benefits of connectivity.
The pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have underscored the urgency of coordinated actions amongst all industry stakeholders and across all geographies.
In too many parts of the world, broadband connectivity continues to be prohibitive. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the price of mobile voice and data services alone, excluding equipment, still represent up to 12% of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in least developed countries. Affordability is critical to connecting the unconnected. The shift to open and disaggregated networks will improve affordability and contribute to a more vibrant supply chain ecosystem with new technology providers, reducing business risks and ultimately enabling greater choice and flexibility in network deployments.
The TIP community and IFC are coming together to accelerate the deployment of Network as a Service (NaaS) solutions that leverage innovative technologies and business models, shared active and passive infrastructure and lower costs to help close the digital divide, especially in emerging markets. TIP will work closely with IFC to ensure financial, environmental, and social sustainability take a central role in the deployment of digital infrastructure. IFC will make available its structuring capabilities and experience in investing in such sectors in emerging markets to participants of the TIP NaaS Solution Group.
“IFC welcomes the partnership with TIP to work together on developing and funding practical solutions that enable further connectivity in emerging markets. Innovation is necessary to lower the breakeven point in network deployment, increase affordability and narrow the digital divide and NaaS can play an important role in this regard. TIP provides a unique forum for funders, policy makers, operators and other industry stakeholders to guide decision making and problem solving around the ongoing challenge of affordability,” said German Cufre, Global Manager for Telecom, Media and Technology Investments at IFC.
“We are excited to have IFC join forces with TIP because it takes more than technology to solve connectivity problems around the globe. IFC brings its deep expertise in project financing, corporate governance and operational structuring to the Telecom Infra Project and our NaaS Solutions Group which will help align our efforts with the wider investment community,” said Attilio Zani, Executive Director of the Telecom Infra Project. “For NaaS in particular, IFC and TIP will develop new approaches for the investment community to help them tap into the large addressable market created by the adoption of the NaaS business model.”
TIP and IFC are also encouraging other funding organizations to join in their effort to help close the digital divide through innovative business models delivering scalable, high-quality cellular connectivity to those who currently do not have it. Join the TIP NaaS Solution Group to get involved.