Currently over two-thirds of the country’s population live in rural areas. Unfortunately, however, many rural communities remain alienated from services enjoyed by their fellow citizens residing in cities.
Notably, urban areas have traditionally been better serviced by telecommunications services, including mobile internet.
This is partially due to the fact that it is hard to access some of these remote areas to build the necessary cell towers.
Nonetheless, the Government – in close partnership with the private sector – is committed to ensuring digital inclusion across Tanzania, regardless of location. Both understand that connecting the remaining Tanzanians to the internet will help drive GDP and create new opportunities for citizens.
There are a number of ways of expanding network coverage into rural areas.
One example that has already been implemented in Tanzania is that telcos have agreed to share infrastructure, such as cell towers.
For example, in 2016, three telcos – Tigo, Airtel and Vodacom – partnered to implement six mobile broadband sites, which would provide mobile internet to around 72,000 rural customers.
Through combining efforts, the operators and Government were able to implement more efficient infrastructure expansion solutions. The initiative has been a success, the mobile services have been used by 95 per cent of the addressable market and are widely commended by customers.
Another viable solution to network expansion is through changing the structure of the market, through greater consolidation. By merging operations, telcos will be able to develop more sustainable business models that encourage more efficient investment. This will make it far easier to invest in expanding services, including into rural areas.
Two of our telecos have expressed their interest in merging. Tigo Tanzania and Zantel are now reportedly in the final stages of their merger, one that is set to strengthen the telecoms sector nationwide.
Commenting on the merger in an article with Forbes, Tigo’s Managing Director highlighted how Tigo’s merger with its sister company would further improve the services offered to their growing customer base.
This was echoed by his Zantel counterpart, noting that both companies are coming together with the goal of driving forward Tanzania’s development.
Our rural communities have started to enjoy the benefits of infrastructure sharing. It looks like the benefits of consolidation could be right around the corner.