The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has advocated broadband mapping in countries, especially member nations to hedge the impact of COVID-19.
Broadband mapping, according to ITU, is a situation whereby regulators assess service availability and quality locally, nationally, and regionally, which becomes essential for informed decision-making.
ITU, which is the United Nations (UN) arm for telecommunications, noted that the swift adoption of digital tools during the COVID- 19 pandemic has shown the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve daily lives, and how the inadequacy or outright lack of digital infrastructure can deprive entire communities of essential services.
The body said broadband mapping is also a prerequisite for investment in sustainable, inclusive infrastructure that leaves no one behind.
At the Regional Regulatory Associations’ meeting during the latest Global Symposium for Regulators, GSR-21, it was revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic hadmade mapping exercises more important than ever before to identify gaps and boost digital access among vulnerable user groups and communities.
Executive Secretary of the Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) and the Meeting’s 2021 chair, Bridget Linzie, said regulators needed a good understanding of broadband mapping to offset negative impacts of COVID.
According to a network development expert at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Vladimir Daigele, mapping is “important to understand the reality in a place, as it allows different stakeholders to come together and plan optimal network technologies and financing solutions.”
The discussions among regional regulators at GSR-21 centred around ways to promote broadband mapping tools, particularly to foster investment and competition aimed at achieving inclusive and sustainable connectivity.
Discussants at the meeting noted that ITU’s Interactive Transmission Maps, a tracking backbone connectivity over 20 million kilometres of global terrestrial networks involving nearly 550 operators, can help to shape infrastructure strategies to connect underserved or disconnected communities.
According to them, ITU is also updating the ICT Infrastructure Business Planning Toolkit to include 5G networks. The toolkit aims to support regulators and operators in designing optimal broadband network deployment in rural and isolated areas using these maps.
They stressed that ensuring universal access, even in a specific sub-sector like education, hinges on mapping the actual demand on the ground for connectivity.
They revealed that in South Africa, mapping is underway to help achieve universal broadband access by 2025.
“Regulators have developed guidelines to analyse broadband gaps in areas with connectivity, as well as gaps in broadband demand, radio-frequency spectrum availability, and investment in broadband infrastructure,” Linzie stated.
It was noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the crucial role of network security and resilience as part of sustainable development.
“An efficiently developed broadband mapping tool is useful not only to address connectivity gaps but also to address network incidents and monitor resilience,” says Nataliia Lado from the Eastern Partnership Electronic Communications Regulators Network (EaPeReg), representing Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.