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GSMA report evaluates wholesale open access networks

The GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide, has announced the results of its new report,


Wholesale Open Access Networks, which explores the performance of the wholesale open access network (WOAN) model (also termed single wholesale network, or SWN) in five markets worldwide, namely: Kenya, Mexico, Russia, Rwanda and South Africa.

The new report, which follows a previous 2014 study that assessed the potential economic case for the wholesale network model, found that in the five countries examined only one network was rolled out, in Rwanda, with deployments in the other markets hindered by slow progress and delayed or cancelled network launches.

The GSMA believes that the projects in these five countries can serve as examples for other countries considering this network rollout model, and highlight the challenges of implementing SWN/WOANs for regulators that view this as an alternative to traditional approaches to network deployment.

The association believes that a more effective path to delivering comprehensive network coverage is for governments, regulators and mobile operators to collaborate on long-term solutions, with the basic building blocks for enabling this as follows:

- Cost effective access to low frequency spectrum.
- Support for spectrum re-farming.
- Support for all forms of voluntary infrastructure sharing.
- The elimination of sector-specific taxation on operators, vendors and consumers.
- Non-discriminatory access to public infrastructure.
- Streamlined planning and administrative processes.
- The relaxation of quality of service requirements.
- A context-appropriate competition policy, particularly relating to market structure.
- Support for multi-sided business models, such as zero rating and sponsored data.

A context-appropriate competition policy, particularly relating to market structure.
Support for multi-sided business models, such as zero rating and sponsored data.
The GSMA notes that for several decades, policymakers have favoured a competitive network structure with licensing of network usage to a limited number of competing mobile network operators, usually under private ownership. Through this approach, there has been rapid growth and development in mobile services, with more than 5 billion people currently connected globally, including 3.8 billion in developing countries, and providing access to tools and applications that can potentially help to address a range of socioeconomic challenges.

To continue to expand network coverage, mobile operators are now evaluating ways to balance competition with cooperation in terms of infrastructure investment by entering voluntarily into infrastructure sharing agreements. Operators are also exploring new business models with third parties that will enable sharing of the cost and risk of investment in networks in rural and remote locations.

The GSMA believes that the benefits of network competition go beyond coverage, with innovation a key factor in delivering consumer value at the national level, and noted that this occurs where there is competition amongst networks, as well as in the delivery of services and the launch of devices in a market.

Jimirasire

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