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IFC, TIP partner for mobile investments push in underserved markets

Almost half – 46.5% – of the world population remain unconnected in a world were digital inequality accentuates the gap between rich and poor.

By João Marques Lima

Founder and Editor, The Tech Capital

4 Mins

October 05, 2021 | 6:02 AM BST

International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) have entered into a 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.

The TIP is a global community of companies and organisations focused on infrastructure solutions to advance connectivity worldwide.

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.

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.

The two parties explained in a statement that they will work closely 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.

German Cufre, Global Manager for Telecom, Media and Technology Investments at IFC, said: “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, policymakers, operators and other industry stakeholders to guide decision making and problem solving around the ongoing challenge of affordability.”

Attilio Zani, Executive Director of the Telecom Infra Project, also commented: “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.

“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.”

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João Marques Lima

Founder and Editor, The Tech Capital

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