Telecommunications / Information & Communication Technology PPPs

Innovations in Information and Communication Technology (“ICT”) and telecommunications have been a key driver of modern-day economic growth, enabling near-instant communication, transforming the economy (e.g. through the rise of the digital economy and e-commerce) and creating new opportunities in all industries and sectors. Consequently, the ICT and telecommunications sector has become an area of priority for many governments, from developing a regulatory environment that supports a thriving digital economy and ensures the availability of the infrastructure that underpin the delivery of telecommunication services, to tackling the emerging and increasingly critical issues of data protection and privacy. For more information on digital technologies and the development of a digital economy, visit the World Bank’s Digital Development page. Also of relevance to this area are data protection regulations emerging around the world. See for example, the online database hosted by the European Commission.

Telecommunications infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs)

Telecommunications infrastructure consists of a broad range of technologies, from broadband and fixed-line networks to mobile connectivity and satellites. Historically, such infrastructure has been state-owned and operated, given its strategic importance. However, a rise in market demand and the pace of innovation in underlying telecommunications technologies have had implications for government ownership, including a trend towards deregulation, privatization and liberalization of telecommunications infrastructure and markets. In many jurisdictions, these factors have resulted in a competitive and dynamic market where multiple private sector participants operate alongside the former state monopoly (which may have been partially or fully privatized).

At the same time, while private sector construction, ownership and operation of telecommunications assets has become increasingly common around the world, telecommunications projects still require significant upfront and ongoing capital investment, with the risk that the network quickly becomes outdated or is overtaken by new technologies. State investment in telecommunications infrastructure addresses the challenges of the economic viability of private sector investment in the entire cost of constructing and operating new telecommunications infrastructure and provides governments with a degree of control over infrastructure deployment (including technology mix, geography, and timeframes). In some cases, state investment also provides government with ultimate ownership over the asset. Telecommunications PPPs enable governments to financially contribute to the development of key telecommunications infrastructure while leveraging private sector capital, technology and expertise.

In markets where telecommunications infrastructures are ultimately owned and operated by private sector participants, ICT PPPs usually take the form of a government subsidy to the capital cost of construction. However, the nature and requirements of the PPP may differ depending on the maturity of the market and the history of private sector participation. In economies with limited historical private sector participation and higher levels of state-led development, PPP requirements can be expected to be more prescriptive, e.g. with the government specifying technology and delivery requirements, while in economies with a more mature and experienced private sector, PPP requirements can be expected to be more outcome-focused, relying on the private sector to plan, design and manage the rollout of telecommunications infrastructure.

This section explores some common regulatory features of the telecommunications sector and provides an overview of sample telecommunications PPPs across a range of different jurisdictions, highlighting the varying PPP structures used in markets at different stages of development. Navigate the following subsections for more information, sample laws, licenses and agreements.

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Updated: September 14, 2021