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Public-private partnerships vital for universal broadband plan-Julfar

Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Group, Mr. Ahmad Julfar has attributed the Universal broadband as a real target that can be achieved through public private partnerships (PPPs) in order to promote greater digital, social and financial inclusion in the developing world.

Julfar who also holds the position of Vice Chair of the GSMA made this known while addressing notable world leaders in telecommunications at Mobile World Summit (MWS), the premier event of 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

GSMA organizes the annual Congress and unites over 800 telecom operators and over 250 companies that operate in the broader mobile eco system.

He said that the public internet needs to develop further and this requires investment in capacity, new solutions, technologies and innovative business models.

According to him the telco sector will not be able to drive this alone, as they face the risk of a big disruption due to the shifts across the value chain, adding that “Etisalat believes that access to broadband is a basic right for everyone and it can be served smartly, where needed. But providing universal access to broadband poses a challenge for telcos because network investments not only have long pay-back periods and capex on infrastructure today yields diminishing returns.”

He added that “new investment models based on semi-public funding from governments or infrastructure-sharing models defined by regulators are urgently needed and should be encouraged.”

Commenting on ‘connecting billions across the developing world,’ Julfar noted: “The benefits of increasing connectivity are clear to see in economic, social and environmental fields, but there is a clear digital gap. Some 60 per cent of the world’s population remains unconnected, the majority of which is in rural areas of the developing world.”

It has been predicted that by 2020, approximately 3.8 billion men and women, or half of the world’s population will be connected to the internet via mobile and a vast majority of the new users will be in developing countries.

“Telecommunications revolutionises everything we do; it is the industry that changes all other industries. Governments know it.  That’s why, over the past 10 years, more than 150 governments have developed or are developing national broadband networks.  The primary goal is to make the country benefit from the economic impact of broadband. And we share a common interest to keep investing in the future internet,” he stated.

Julfar advocated for some changes which telecommunications ecosystem, Governments, Regulators, Internet companies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) must adhere to include: new competitive models to allow telcos to focus on market value creation through collaboration between private and public sectors to distribute more choice, affordability and welfare to citizens.

Essentially he said, “Some of the most innovative models today come from emerging countries. Etisalat Group takes a different approach in various developing countries that it operates in, and not one size fits all. Our ability to be flexible to meet individual market need drives our growth across the region. This flexible approach has enabled Etisalat Group to extend service provision for millions of people.”

Etisalat Group today covers 19 countries across two continents, and includes dynamic emerging markets across the Middle East, Asia and Africa serving over 182 million subscribers.

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