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Mobile industry commits over $9bn to ITU’s call for global universal connectivity

22nd March 2024

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The mobile industry has committed over $9-billion in investments to extend global connectivity.

The new industry commitments brings the total current value of planned investments in infrastructure, services and support to the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU’s) Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, since the platform opened in March 2022, to more than $46-billion.

ITU secretary-general Doreen Bogdan-Martin says the announcement, made at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), held in Spain, in February, builds on the mobile industry’s strong support to the ITU’s efforts to connect the world.

“Universal meaningful connectivity is within our grasp. Thanks to these new commitments, millions of people will benefit from accessible and affordable connectivity across the world,” says Bogdan-Martin.

The commitments include $6-billion between 2024 and 2026 from technology and investment group e& for accessible and affordable network connectivity and digital services across countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia; more than $1.4-billion from China Telecom to roll out fibre-to-the-home and providing high-quality information and communication services to over 80-million people in remote administrative villages across China; $1.1-billion from Ooredoo for connectivity in the developing markets ranging from North Africa to the Indian Ocean; and $600-million from VEON to build the infrastructure of Ukraine, providing connectivity and digital services essential to the reconstruction of the country.

The new commitments from e&, China Telecom, Ooredoo and VEON are expected to be implemented over the next two to five years.

“I applaud the ITU secretary-general’s focus on the importance of infrastructure investment to enable the digital economy. Mobile operators continuously invest in deploying and upgrading their networks, delivering benefits to citizens in all corners of the globe. I congratulate e&, China Telecom, Ooredoo and VEON on their investment pledges,” adds GSMA chief regulatory officer John Giusti.

In May 2023, the ITU issued a worldwide appeal to increase the value of pledges for digitalising the world from the current $30- billion to $100-billion by 2026, to provide the expertise and resources required to extend universal, meaningful connectivity and sustainable digital transformation to every corner of the globe.

The appeal by the United Nations (UN) specialised agency for information and communication technologies includes a focus on raising the level of resources for universal and meaningful connectivity and digital transformation in the world’s least- developed countries.

According to data from the ITU, 2.6-billion people remain offline worldwide.

As telecommunications infrastructure forms the backbone of connectivity and digital transformation, it is vital for closing that global digital divide and overcoming development impediments in areas from education and health to government services and trade.

In addition to infrastructure, Partner2Connect commitments can support other critical needs, including building digital skills and increasing digital inclusion.

Meanwhile, alongside the new commitments, the UN’s digital agency also notes that it now has over 1 000 industry, academia and organisational members, in addition to its 193 member States, marking the largest, most diverse membership in the agency’s history.

• Natasha Odendaal was a guest of Huawei at the Mobile World Congress 2024, held in Barcelona, Spain, from February 26 to 29.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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