The GSM Association (GSMA), a body that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, announced the launch of the first active Infrastructure-sharing initiative in East Africa between mobile network operators (MNOs) Airtel, Millicom and Vodacom. The MNOs have committed to launch six 3G pilot sites across the country to test the sustainable provision of mobile broadband services to 13 million underserved people across rural areas of Tanzania.
The mobile telephone market in Tanzania has grown significantly and, as of the end of 2015, there were over 17 million individual mobile subscribers, accounting for 34 million connections across the country. While mobile growth in Tanzania has been substantial, large sections of society are still left out of the digital realm. Tanzania’s population of 49 million people is widely dispersed, with 69 per cent of the population living in rural regions. As population density in rural wards varies significantly, operators have so far been able to deploy their 2G networks to up to 85 per cent of the population, while 3G network deployment is mostly limited to urban areas, resulting in only 35 per cent of the population being covered and able to access the mobile internet.
The agreement is the result of a year-long collaboration between the GSMA Connected Society programme, the three local operators and the government of Tanzania. The pilots are structured around a replicable methodology to roll out mobile broadband networks and providing critical access to the unconnected. The GSMA expects to launch similar projects in other markets over the next three years.