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Telcos urged to share networks

Telecom operators struggling to gain investment for new network rollouts should consider network sharing, according to ITU

Telecom operators in emerging markets should consider network sharing to counter the effects of the global economic downturn, according to a report from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

In its annual Trends in Telecommunication Reform report, the ITU advocates infrastructure sharing to counter the “investment drought” and looks at how operators can lower costs for network rollouts, which are essential to cater to a large, growing demand for voice and internet services.

“Sharing strategies are increasingly necessary to ensure that operators can deploy their networks at low cost while guaranteeing that consumers have access to affordable services,” said Sami Al Basheer, director of ITU’s telecommunication development bureau.

“Now, more than ever, sharing strategies make sense as operators are forced to reduce the costs of network deployment as they compete for scarce investment funds. This is a forward-looking perspective in light of the current financial and economic uncertainty.”

Sharing strategies include the sharing of civil engineering costs in deploying networks, promoting open access to network infrastructure such as poles, ducts, and conduits, and sharing facilities including submarine cable landing stations and international gateways, and access to radio-frequency spectrum and end-user devices.

The ITU first advocated network sharing in Thailand during the ITU’s 2008 Global Symposium for Regulators last March, and the organisation expects the concept to gain greater traction as the global economy continues to weaken.

Furthermore, the ITU expects soaring demand for network capacity to contribute to a shift towards network sharing from regulators and operators. Indeed, at the end of 2008, there were an estimated 4 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, and some 1.5 billion Internet users, a growing number of which use fixed and mobile broadband services.

“Regulators have a responsibility to create and maintain an environment in which operators and service providers can maximise network capacity and efficiency by fostering capital investment and market expansion as the sector continues to evolve,” the ITU said in a statement.

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