The GSMA (an organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide) announced a joint initiative with Facebook, through its Internet.org partnership, designed to connect the billions of men and women globally that currently have no access to Internet-based communications services.
The joint initiative will focus on reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of mobile, given that mobile will be the enabling technology for the vast majority of people in developing markets.
“While there are nearly 7 billion mobile connections worldwide, there are only 3.4 billion people that currently have mobile phones,” said Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA.
“Mobile will offer many around the world, particularly in emerging markets, their only access to the Internet and the information and communications services it enables. Connecting the next billion is a major goal of the GSMA and we are pleased to be working with Facebook and internet.org to make this a reality.”
“We launched the Internet.org partnership last year as a contribution to addressing the challenge of ensuring everyone has affordable access to the Internet,” said Elliot Schrage, VP Communications and Public Policy, Facebook.
“Mobile operators are key to meeting this challenge and we are pleased to be able to work with GSMA on making sure that mobile Internet can be delivered in a sustainable and affordable way.”
The partnership will focus on creating a sustainable environment to incentivise mobile infrastructure investment and usage, as well as eliminating or reducing existing mobile-specific taxation or refraining from imposing new such tax regimes.
The GSMA and Facebook recently issued reports elaborating on these issues. The GSMA study “Mobile Taxes and Fees: A Toolkit of Principles and Evidence” examined the current taxation burden on mobile in 19 countries in developing markets, revealing the significant negative impact of sector-specific taxation in these markets.
The research findings demonstrate that taxes on mobile restrict the growth of the sector, as well as consumer uptake of mobile services. Facebook supports the GSMA’s recommendation that governments should take early action to reduce the excessive levels of sector-specific taxes and fees on the mobile industry.
The Facebook report “Value of Connectivity” looks at the impact of extending Internet access to the billions of individuals that are currently unconnected. The findings suggest that if developing countries could bridge the gap in Internet penetration to reach levels that developed economies enjoy today, they would experience large increases in GDP growth and productivity and improvements in health conditions and education opportunities, providing a clear potential to reduce poverty and promote long-term economic and social development.
Together, the GSMA and Facebook will also address a range of other issues that will improve affordability and help to connect the world’s population to the Internet, such as: maximising the availability of harmonised spectrum to drive mobile broadband adoption; evaluating the establishment of local Internet Exchange Points (IXPs); fostering the development of local Internet content; and examining the effectiveness of Universal Service Funds.