Toward universal telephone access: Market progress and progress beyond the market


Work data:

Type of work: Article (academic)


Digital Divide | ICT Infrastructure


The last 10 years have seen an explosion in access to telephone services worldwide based on rapid technology advance in increasingly competitive markets. The mobile phone has driven expansion in subscribers and access, especially in the developing world. This paper estimates global mobile footprint coverage based on 2002 data and calculates that as much as 77 percent of the world’s population may live in an area covered by a mobile signal. Nonetheless, many people remain without access to telephony. The paper estimates the maximum likely cost in terms of cross subsidy within the industry and outside financing for achieving universal access using competitively awarded subsidies to private providers in a reformed market. This upper-end cost is estimated at $5.7 billion, with costs that could not be supplied by a reasonable tax on existing providers (and so required from outside the sector) estimated at $1.8 billion.