January 24th, 2022

Mobile Broadband – Facilitating CTO’s Digital Transformation Goals

The Commonwealth Telecommunication Organisation (CTO) is an intergovernmental treaty organisation that, over its 122-year history, has been dedicated to expanding telecommunications networks and promoting and fostering development through the effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT). In response to rapid technological innovation and the uncertainty rendered by the COVID 19 pandemic, the CTO has charted a new course to streamline its activities to support members’ digital transformation goals. The CTO considers a significant aspect of digital transformation to be affordable universal broadband connectivity for all.

Early in the evolution of wireless communication technologies, the CTO recognised the potential of these technologies to facilitate mobility and to enable greater degrees of connectivity. In recent years, the CTO has undertaken substantial consultancy, advisory and capacity building work in mobile broadband across the Commonwealth. The CTO’s work has involved spectrum management; harmonisation of regional cross-border mobile broadband policies and regulations; and development of M-Government Strategies.

Over the last decade, the demand for spectrum in the mobile industry increased with the emergence to high-bandwidth ICT services. Now, in this era of the pandemic and lockdowns, the demand for spectrum is intense. The CTO continues to engage with policy makers and regulators, advising on appropriate methodologies and practices to ensure this resource is utilised effectively and efficiently.

The CTO has focused on developing an appropriate regulatory environment in the mobile broadband industry to foster competition, growth and innovation and has been working with its members to ensure alignment of government policies with the mobile industry requirements. To this end it has been assisting countries in developing spectrum frequency plans, carrying out spectrum audits, drafting spectrum licences and undertaking digital switchover projects.

A November 2021 press release[1] from the International Telecommunications Union estimated 2.9 billion people or 37 per cent of the world’s population as being offline. Many of these are in Commonwealth countries. The majority of CTO members, are developing economies – remote small islands and vast continental states, with geographically challenging or remote communities. Deploying broadband fibre networks to reach citizens is often impractical and costly. Mobile broadband is playing a significant role increasing the ease of communication and reducing the digital divide by connecting the unconnected.

The CTO is committed to expanding mobile broadband as the primary method of digital access for members with connectivity challenges and will be researching the utilisation of new, innovative, and efficient technologies such as global mobile satellite broadband for reaching into Commonwealth countries’ with more remote and disaster-prone areas. In addition to global satellite for mobile broadband access in inaccessible areas for applications in disaster relief, health, safety.

The new course for the CTO envisions mobile broadband to be a catalyst for economic growth and development. Consequently, the CTO will be continuing its promotion of mobile broadband technologies including the use of new satellite and 5G networks. The CTO will work with strategic partner organisations to support its members and will continue to maintain a close relationship with global partners like GSMA, ITU, ICANN, and collaborate with regional organisations.

Ultimately, CTO’s goal is to ensure that its member governments make effective use of digital technologies to engage with and deliver services to its citizens. This will require that every citizen has affordable broadband access. Mobile broadband technology holds the promise for digital transformation in the Commonwealth and the CTO will be pursuing these options to make this goal a reality.

[1] Press Release (itu.int)