ITU Wireless Broadband Partnership
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are widely recognized as key drivers of private sector investment, employment and social and economic development. However, while industrialized countries rapidly and effectively leverage the benefits of ICTs, many developing and least developed countries are falling further behind, thus widening gaps in opportunity and prosperity.
Recognizing the catalytic role of ICTs to help reach the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals by 2015, world leaders established a number of connectivity targets during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and 2005. As the UN specialized agency for ICT, ITU has played an active role in the implementation of WSIS across a number of areas. In particular though, ITU was mandated as the lead for ICT infrastructure development.
The challenge of connecting the unconnected remains great. While mobile coverage has improved significantly across all regions, high speed broadband connectivity required for key business and government applications and services in many developing and least developed countries is either not available or prohibitively expensive. Traditional business models, especially in rural and remote areas often do not support the needed investment. In addition, insufficient local content is available and too few people have training in the required technologies. To overcome these challenges, new approaches are needed, including innovative public-private partnerships, involving committed stakeholders working together towards a common goal.
To this end, ITU is bringing together partners from government, industry, financial institutions and other stakeholders as part of a shared effort to Connect the World. The objective of the Connect the World is to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources required to bridge major gaps in ICT/telecommunication infrastructure, thus supporting affordable connectivity and applications and services to stimulate economic growth, employment and development in all regions.
As a flagship effort of Connect the World, the ITU Wireless Broadband Partnership will mobilize key stakeholders to finance, plan, build, operate and maintain wireless broadband infrastructure within beneficiary countries, with particular attention to underserved populations in rural and remote areas.
ITU will work with governments and other partners to identify specific areas to be covered within each participating country and determine and mobilize the resources required for implementation. The initiative seeks to balance social and economic development aims with the need for investors and industry participants to yield sufficient returns as part of a long term sustainable business model that can be widely replicated. This includes the allocation of wireless broadband capacity devoted to public uses, such as schools, hospitals/clinics and other government services. The remaining capacity would be made available to residents, businesses and others on a commercial basis, recognizing that new, innovative approaches are needed to ensure affordable prices.
The objective of the ITU Wireless Broadband Partnership is to provide access to broadband supported services and applications at rates comparable to those in developed countries, if not less over time.
Within this broader vision, in each country, partners will start with a limited number of test community zones where the technical and operational requirements, quality of service and business models will be tested. Successful trials will lead to broader roll-out in each country and experiences will be used to inform new projects in other countries.
The following outcomes are expected for each participating country in the Wireless Broadband Partnership:
- Deployment of wireless broadband infrastructure (backbone and access networks) for identified areas;
- Development of a national ICT broadband network plan for entire territory of beneficiary countries;
- Training of local experts on the operation of the deployed wireless communication network;
- Development of ICT applications and services that improve public services and create opportunities for sustainable economic growth and employment; and,
- Provision of low cost devices to expand ICT access, starting with laptops for school children in least developed countries as part of a Connecting Children campaign.
Each partner will have a clear set of roles and responsibilities to be outlined in an agreement. The following is a summary of the main points for each:
For implementation of this initiative, ITU will:
- Cooperate with selected industry partners in developing suitable wireless network plan;
- Provide staff resources for the preparation of each project’s detailed implementation plan and for the supervision, monitoring, and evaluation of project implementation;
- Obtain the commitment of beneficiary countries to participate, including the preparation and finalization of the signing of formal agreements between the participating parties;
- Cooperate with the parties to identify appropriate project sites in each beneficiary country; and
- Report to the partners of each project on implementation progress and disseminate the results, in collaboration with the partners.
Industry partners will:
- Develop a network plan for identified areas;
- Provide and deliver required networking equipment, including installation, commissioning and putting into operation of the planned networking system in each beneficiary country;
- Collaborate with ITU for the implementation (supervision, monitoring and evaluation) of each project;
- Allocate some of their wireless broadband capacity for public uses, including schools, hospitals and other government/community services.
Beneficiary countries will provide:
- Information required for carrying out project activities;
- All necessary permits;
- Exemption form customs duties of imported project related items;
- Regulatory requirements where required, including but not limited to:
- Permission to deploy and operate a broadband wireless network;
- Assignment of sufficient bandwidth for the deployment and operation of the broadband wireless network in the required frequency bands;
- Authorization to build and operate an international gateway for connectivity to international fiber networks and satellite networks; and
- Authorization for point-to-point microwave links at the required frequency band(s).
- Assistance to acquire access to networks and services from other operators which include, but not limited to the following:
- National fiber network at reasonable commercial prices; and
- International gateway and collocation rights on existing towers under fair terms.
- Administrative support required during the project implementation; and
- Any other assistance required by the project management team.