10 years ago, if you wanted to become a telecom operator you needed very deep pockets and a lot of connections within the government at the highest level. The cost of acquiring spectrum was exorbitant in addition to the high capital investment required to deploy the network sites. The process of licensing was & still is laid with a lot of bureaucracy giving rise to a telecom industry that is oligopolistic at best in most parts of the world. The reign has been in the hands of a few private players and consequently, network distribution has solely been driven with a profit agenda. This has translated into ignoring areas of expected low profits i.e. the remote villages and towns across the globe amounting to an astounding 1.6 billion people ! These places are determined as no-go zones for these major companies as only marginal profits can be earned by providing services to them leaving remote communities in a lurch.
Taking matter into their own hands:
Some of Mexico’s biggest telecom firms have had near-monopoly for decades and have not expanded their network to less profitable small towns and villages. In 2013, Oaxaca, a coffee-producing village of Mexico was completely frustrated with network isolation and ended their hopeless wait for the big telecoms to help them out. They took charge of their own connectivity needs and collaborated with civil organizations and successfully created their own micro cellular network. This small exercise was a global case study and was subsequently adopted by many rural communities. Another benefit of a micro cellular network for the community – the low opex and capex – which makes their business model self-sustainable.
What the government can do:
Allowing few companies to assume supremacy over the telecom market has caused huge losses to unconnected remote areas, both financially and socially. Governments should regularly check for an abusive monopoly that allows telcos to ignore expected low ROI areas such as villages and small towns. Governments should be proactive in starting local entrepreneurial programs that encourage and empower to self-start such projects and not be wholly dependent on private operators to rescue them.
What local entrepreneurs can do:
Local entrepreneurs can rise up to the task and take loans from micro financial institutions or seek investors for financial help to start their private local networks; crowdfunding is also a viable option. This in turn can also bring new jobs to the community. Something similar has already happened at Talea in Mexico where local entrepreneurs and community members have set up their local network after years of unsuccessful attempts to get any telecom company’s attention. And now they are reaping the benefits of a self-sufficient mobile network.
How Omoco can help:
Omoco’s private GSM network is an easy-to-install, cost-effective network solution to the problem of rural disconnection. Easy application & simple configuration of Omoco’s Rural GSM mobile solution along with regional language support makes it easy for the locals to deploy the solution and manage the site. With the option of running on solar-power, it’s a sensible solution for remote villages that are often off the grid. It can integrate with VoIP, Rural Internet Service Providers (ISPs), or any mobile network, making delivery of voice, SMS and data services in low-income rural areas, a highly viable business as the typical high cost of a traditional network deployment is removed. Rural communities can easily commission and quickly install Omoco’s solutions, so that they have a complete mobile network up and running in just a few hours.
Omoco’s network-in-a-box solution is changing the face of network ownership and bringing the world a lot closer by reaching out to the unreachable. To know how little it takes to become a regional mobile operator, please visit: www.omoco.in. For updates on what we are up to, follow us @omocogsm on Twitter.