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World Mobile and GSMA Foundry showcase how Africa’s first commercial telecoms aerostat can help close digital divide at MWC Kigali

World Mobile and GSMA Foundry showcase how Africa’s first commercial telecoms aerostat can help close digital divide at MWC Kigali

Millions of Sub-Saharan Africans left disconnected from the digital world according to new report

Kigali, October 17, 2023: Following the successful launch of Africa’s first commercial telecoms aerostat, in Mozambique last week, World Mobile alongside GSMA Foundry will be showcasing how their innovative mobile network can help tackle the digital divide in Africa, at MWC Kigali.

New research released by the GSMA shows that 5% of the global population remain living in areas without mobile broadband coverage, meaning more than 400 million people have no access to the internet. Sub Saharan Africa remains the region with the world’s largest coverage and usage gaps, with more than 180 million people in Sub Saharan Africa, or 15% of the population, living in an area with no coverage. Meanwhile 59% live in connected areas, but for several socio-economic reasons, remain unconnected. This lack of connectivity has a significant impact on access to healthcare, education, financial inclusion, and economic opportunities.

“The two biggest issues are that these unconnected communities predominantly live in rural, poor and sparsely populated areas, making them the most challenging to reach. Alongside the coverage challenges that the mobile industry is looking to address, affordability remains a huge issue. This means that 680 million people in Sub Saharan Africa, living in areas with mobile coverage aren’t connecting to it,” said Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer at the GSMA. “We are thrilled to be supporting World Mobile in their goal to connect the unconnected in Africa. It’s clear that industry collaboration and more innovative new technologies are needed to act as a catalyst to help close the digital divide and improve the lives of millions more people.”

With the support of the GSMA Foundry, an innovation accelerator, World Mobile, the world’s first mobile network, built on blockchain has launched Africa’s first commercial telecommunications aerostat in Mozambique, aimed at connecting rural areas affordably and sustainably. The launch, which took place near the rural village of Massingir, commences several weeks of flight operations. Data and insight gathered will form the basis for World Mobile to deploy additional commercial aerostats across Mozambique, Africa, and other under-connected regions around the world.

World Mobile’s CEO, Micky Watkins, said: “We are excited to partner with the GSMA Foundry to bring this innovative solution to Mozambique. Our goal is to connect the unconnected and close the digital divide in Africa. We believe that everyone has the right to access the opportunities that mobile internet can offer. By using aerostats and a blockchain-based sharing economy, we can provide low-cost, high-quality, and community-owned connectivity to millions of people.”

World Mobile aerostats are deployed roughly 300 meters into the air and tethered to the ground, providing last-mile connectivity using a custom radio payload. This means that World Mobile customers can directly connect to the payload using internet-connected devices akin to a traditional cell tower. The aerostats offer standard cellular connectivity covering a radius of up to 130 kilometers, overcoming the challenges of terrain, infrastructure, and cost that often hinder the expansion of mobile networks. Its ‘hybrid dynamic’ network uses a combination of ground and aerial infrastructure to deploy its mobile network, which World Mobile calculates can cost up to 12 times less than traditional mobile network operators.

Unlike traditional mobile networks, World Mobile is built on the blockchain, enabling it to offer unmatched transparency, efficiency, and security in comparison to legacy mobile network operators. Moreover, World Mobile’s implementation of blockchain technology facilitates a distributed sharing economy that taps into the trillion-dollar global telecom market. Individuals and business owners around the world can operate nodes on its network and bring their communities online while earning revenue.

World Mobile and the GSMA will be discussing how technological innovation and cross industry and community collaboration is vital to tackling the mobile internet connectivity and usage gaps in Africa, on the Better Future Stage at MWC Kigali on Thursday 19 October 13:45-14:15. The team will also be showcasing this initiative throughout the event at the GSMA Foundry stand at the GSMA Pavilion (E18 and E20).

Watkins said: “We welcome everyone who is interested in closing the digital divide in Africa to join us at MWC Kigali. As history has shown and the current market dynamics indicate, no one can do this alone. Industry, regulators, and local communities as a whole need to unite and work together to tackle these challenges and build out connectivity infrastructure. We look forward to sharing our experience and learning from others at this important event.”

MWC Kigali, is the African continent’s largest and most influential connectivity event taking place on the 17 – 19 October. The event convenes powerful innovators and political leaders from all parts of the continent to create a better future for all. It features impactful summits and forums, delving into vital topics like bridging the digital divide, leveraging mobile tech for socio-economic development, and aligning industries with UN Sustainable Development Goals.


About World Mobile

World Mobile is democratizing global connectivity through its blockchain-based network. Unlike traditional telecom providers, World Mobile operates on a sharing economy model, allowing individuals and businesses to run nodes, connect their communities, and generate revenue.

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About GSMA

The GSMA is a global organisation unifying the mobile ecosystem to discover, develop and deliver innovation foundational to positive business environments and societal change. Our vision is to unlock the full power of connectivity so that people, industry, and society thrive. Representing mobile operators and organisations across the mobile ecosystem and adjacent industries, the GSMA delivers for its members across three broad pillars: Connectivity for Good, Industry Services and Solutions, and Outreach. This activity includes advancing policy, tackling today’s biggest societal challenges, underpinning the technology and interoperability that make mobile work, and providing the world’s largest platform to convene the mobile ecosystem at the MWC and M360 series of events.

GSMA Foundry brings together the mobile network operator community, and the wider technology industry, to rapidly develop real-world solutions to industry challenges, nurture new ideas through initial commercial trials and scale proven solutions at a regional and global level.

We invite you to find out more at