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Jakarta Post

Powered by the sun, telcos open up cellphone final frontier

  • Jeremy Wagstaff

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, December 22 2012   /  10:15 am

Until this year, 1,000 or so residents of Mambi on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island used their mobile phones as calculators, cameras and music players.

But only if they rode up to five hours by bus or motorcycle over muddy roads could they actually use them for their primary purpose: to make phone calls or send messages.

And they’re not alone.

According to a study released in October by the GSM Association GSMA.L, a grouping of mobile operators, 1.5 billion people lack access to a cell phone signal.

This is primarily because cellular operators haven’t considered connecting remote communities such as Mambi worth the cost. But with demand for cell phone services in rural parts of the developing world rising, and the cost of the technology to connect them falling, the equation is changing.

That means rural folk like those in Mambi will form the bulk of s...