A US$5.3 billion opportunity?

By on 17 Apr 2015

Category: Development

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Sixteen of the 56 economies in the APNIC region have established Universal Service Funds (USFs) [1] to support their Universal Service Obligations (USOs). For those who don’t know, the underlying concept of Universal Service is to ensure that telecommunications services are accessible to the widest number of people (and communities) at affordable prices.

Universal service is based on three main principles:

  • Availability: the level of service is the same for all users in their place of work or residence, at all times and without geographical discrimination
  • Affordability: for all users, the price of the service should not be a factor that limits service access
  • Accessibility: all subscribers should be treated in a non-discriminatory manner with respect to the price, service and quality of the service, in all places, without distinction of race, sex, religion, etc. operate

Why should USFs be of interest to the APNIC community ?

Firstly, because of growing efforts to use these funds for broadband connectivity and secondly because many members of the APNIC community (e.g. mobile operators) contribute to them.

Recently in Bangkok, I attended an ITU and ADB organized conference on “discuss issues, challenges, and opportunities concerning universal access and service as well as broadband deployment and identify innovative approaches for promoting broadband through the USO framework”. For more on the conference, click here.

One presentation highlighted a GSMA report which estimates that US$5.3 billion in USFs remained un-invested in the Asia Pacific region[2]. It’s a huge amount, especially when it’s meant for only 16 of the region’s 56 economies.

More importantly, it’s a great opportunity to connect the millions of Asia Pacific residents who remain unconnected.

 

[1] From an ITU Report entitled “Universal Service Fund and Digital Inclusion for All Study” June 2013

[2] Universal Service Fund Study conducted on behalf of the GSM Association (April 2013) by Ladcomm Corporation

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