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Fri 6 Mar 2015 09:47 AM

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Broadband access is a 'basic right', says Etisalat chief

CEO Ahmad Julfar calls for public-private sector partnerships to make internet accessible for more of world's population

Broadband access is a 'basic right', says Etisalat chief
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

Universal broadband is a target that can be achieved through public private partnerships to promote greater digital, social and financial inclusion in the developing world, according to Ahmad Julfar, CEO of UAE-based Etisalat Group.

Some 60 percent of the world's population remains unconnected but Julfar said he believes "access to broadband is a basic right for everyone".

He was addressing an audience of some of the world's leading figures in telecommunications at Mobile World Summit in Barcelona.

Julfar said that the internet needs to evolve further with more investment in capacity, new solutions, technologies and innovative business models.

"Etisalat believes that access to broadband is a basic right for everyone and it can be served smartly, where needed," he said. "But providing universal access to broadband poses a challenge for telcos because network investments not only have long pay-back periods and capex on infrastructure today yields diminishing returns."

He said that new investment models based on semi-public funding from governments or infrastructure-sharing models defined by regulators are urgently needed and should be encouraged.

Julfar said: "The benefits of increasing connectivity are clear to see in economic, social and environmental fields, but there is a clear digital gap. Some 60 percent of the world's population remains unconnected, the majority of which is in rural areas of the developing world."

By 2020, approximately 3.8 billion men and women, or half of the world's population will be connected to the internet via mobile and a vast majority of the new users will be in developing countries.

Julfar proposed a number of changes the telecommunications ecosystem - governments, regulators, internet companies and NGOs - should embrace including new competitive models to allow telcos to focus on market value creation through collaboration between private and public sectors to distribute more choice, affordability and welfare to citizens.

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