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GSMA Joins Alliance for Affordable Internet To Drive Access To Mobile Broadband In Developing World

LONDON, Jan. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The GSMA today announced its membership in the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), a diverse global coalition of over 50 members committed to driving down the cost of Internet access in developing countries via regulatory and policy reform. The GSMA will work closely with A4AI to identify policy and regulatory barriers to Internet access and affordability and collaborate on plans to address these issues on a worldwide basis.

Anne Bouverot, Director General, GSMA commented: "We welcome the opportunity to become a member of the Alliance for Affordable Internet and to help tackle one of the most pressing technological challenges in less-developed countries. According to GSMA Intelligence, penetration rates of mobile subscribers are as low as 20 per cent in Ethiopia, 28 per cent in India and 30 per cent in Pakistan, though high levels of multiple SIM ownership mean the numbers of mobile connections are higher.

"There is an urgent need for affordable smartphones, the rapid, economically viable deployment of wireless broadband infrastructure in rural areas and the promotion of digital literacy to help connect the unconnected in underserved communities around the world."

Sonia Jorge, Executive Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet added: "Despite recent falls in prices, mobile broadband remains prohibitively expensive in most developing countries. A4AI's recent affordability report highlighted that for those living on less than US $2 a day, mobile broadband costs in excess of 20 per cent of monthly incomes in many countries, and skyrockets to as much as 48 per cent of income in Colombia, and 35 per cent in Zambia.

"A4AI is tackling the regulatory and policy barriers that keep prices artificially high. Working with the GSMA and its members to lower cost structures and develop innovative delivery approaches will be a significant boost to our efforts. We must drive broadband prices down rapidly to enable billions more – particularly women and under-served rural communities – to access the life-changing potential of the Internet."

Launched in October 2013, A4AI's primary focus is to support the achievement of the UN Broadband Commission's Broadband Target of entry-level broadband services priced at less than five per cent of average monthly income. The Alliance believes that, while technological solutions are advancing rapidly, policy and regulations remain a significant barrier to affordable Internet. A4AI thus seeks to create the conditions for open, competitive and innovative broadband markets via policy and regulatory reform through a combination of advocacy, research and knowledge-sharing at global, regional and national levels.

Prior to the launch of A4AI, the GSMA worked with the Alliance to help shape its principles and policy positions. While the two organisations' respective positions are aligned, A4AI's principle around using unlicensed spectrum and opportunistic reuse within rules that avoid harmful interference contrasts with the GSMA's position that the use of 'white space' should not jeopardise future reallocation of TV broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband and the economic benefits this would bring.

Alliance members include Alcatel-Lucent, the Association for Progressive Communications, Cisco, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, Ericsson, Facebook, Google, Intel, the Internet Society, Microsoft, the Omidyar Network, Research ICT Africa, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), USAID and Yahoo! In-country work in Ghana and Nigeria will begin in the first quarter of 2014.

About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world's mobile operators with 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com. Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

About the A4AI
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) is a global coalition committed to driving down the cost of internet access in less developed countries.

A4AI focuses on creating the conditions for open, efficient and competitive broadband markets via policy and regulatory reform. Through a combination of advocacy, research and knowledge-sharing, the Alliance aims to facilitate the achievement of the UN Broadband Commission target of entry-level broadband services priced at less than five per cent of average monthly income. In doing so, A4AI will help to connect the two-thirds of people in developing countries who cannot access the Internet.

A4AI members are drawn from both developed and less developed countries and include public, private and not-for-profit organizations. The World Wide Web Foundation, founded by Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, initiated the Alliance which launched in October 2013. Global sponsors are Google, Omidyar Network, the UK Department for International Development and USAID.

More information is available at www.a4ai.org or via Twitter: @a4a_internet.

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