Assessing countries’ broadband readiness for the new normal post-COVID 19
The events of the last few months have shown that robust broadband is essential for protecting citizens and sustaining economies. Unconnected citizens have been left vulnerable, without access to potentially life-saving and certainly life-enhancing online services and information. Even many of those with broadband have struggled with services unable to meet the bandwidth demands of lockdown living.
In the wake of COVID-19, governments and operators urgently need to address their broadband strategies to ensure that citizens and economies are able to cope with a new normal in digital behavior. To assist, Nokia has developed the Country Broadband Health Index. Inspired by The World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index, our index provides a measure of how well a country’s broadband networks (fixed and mobile) stand up to the challenge of this new normal and the extent to which the whole population is being properly served.
The index is a single indictor combining two fundamental elements:
- Resilience: the ability of existing networks to support the needs of current users.
- Wellness: the extent to which networks serve the needs of the whole population.
It combines several pieces of publicly available data and applies weightings to model the relative importance of each factor. The weightings reflect the mix of mobile versus fixed broadband and the relevance of connecting the unconnected versus improving underserved customers.
Initially applied to 38 countries, we’ve used multiple data on networks in those countries and applied them to this index, modeling both a pre-COVID and new normal worlds, and factoring in strategies either to prioritize the unconnected or underserved, or both equally. The table below shows how resilience and wellness correlate, and where different countries are situated.
Some hypothetical examples help understand the results:
- A country with an average broadband service level of 100 Mb/s has strong resilience. If that service is only available to 10% of the population, it has low wellness.
- A country with high fixed broadband coverage will have lower health if coverage is predominantly based on older technology unable to sustain the new normal, either for download or upload speeds.
- Similarly, a country with high mobile coverage will have lower health if that coverage is predominantly 2G and 3G.
Our index can be used to provide guidance on where governments need to focus. For example, countries with a low score should consider launching national broadband programs. Those with a high score should consider addressing areas of concern related to underserved populations or still unconnected areas. And where there’s a mixed picture, governments should implement a combination of measures.
Given the urgency surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, governments should pull all the levers at their disposal—from public investment, encouraging private investment, incentivizing operators through taxation or subsidies, and addressing rights of way regulations to facilitate infrastructure deployments. In this way, they can improve their ability to protect both their citizens and their economies in the event of another crisis.
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