Last-Mile Connectivity Deployments in the Global South: An Exploratory Study of the Sustainability of New Business Models

14 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2018 Last revised: 23 Aug 2018

See all articles by Sharada Srinivasan

Sharada Srinivasan

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: March 16, 2018


Internet access initiatives at the community level are exploring ways of driving down the costs of deploying and operating network infrastructure through the use of innovative technologies and business models. This paper presents empirical data on four case studies of such Internet connectivity deployments in the Global South: the Gram Marg Project, that deploys a hybrid of TV White Spaces and unlicensed Wi-Fi in the 5.8 GHz spectrum band in 25 villages in rural India, the Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan’s ‘Internet Houses’ initiative that connects 36 villages in rural Balochistan using Fiber and Satellite, Vanu Rwanda’s small-scale GSM architecture model deployed at 31 sites in rural Rwanda that provides public Wi-Fi hotspots with access to zero-rated content at some sites in addition to providing basic 2G connectivity and LiFi LED, which uses Light Fidelity technology in villages on the Ivory Coast. These deployments have adopted different ways of financing and raising revenue, in addition to their use of innovative technologies. Further, some of these initiatives provide Internet access at community anchor institutions, and offer a range of complementary products in addition to Internet connectivity. Using in-depth interviews with the organizations deploying these projects, this paper develops a framework to comparatively assess these last-mile connectivity deployments. It then uses empirical, available data on their cost, reach, revenue and funding to determine cost effectiveness across models and comment on their sustainability.

Keywords: sustainability, last mile connectivity, emerging business models

Suggested Citation

Srinivasan, Sharada, Last-Mile Connectivity Deployments in the Global South: An Exploratory Study of the Sustainability of New Business Models (March 16, 2018). TPRC 46: The 46th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2018. Available at SSRN:

Sharada Srinivasan (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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