Bolivia’s incumbent fixed line operator Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Entel) has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Public Works to expand mobile telephony and internet access networks to around 500,000 people in 1,000 rural regions, according to BNamericas quoting local press reports. The Ministry says there will be no state subsidisation for the work, and that Entel will fund the rollout, which includes around 150 radio base stations, over a 24-month period.
Entel’s plan is part of a recently announced government programme to improve rural communications facilities, including the installation of 2,000 public internet centres within the next five years. The centres will provide users with access to telephony, data and television services. At least 100 such facilities will be introduced by the end of this year, and 1,500 in rural areas by the end of 2007. Only seven out of every one thousand rural inhabitants have internet access, while nearly 26,000 communities with over 350 inhabitants have no telephony services at all. Public telephony services reach 0.6% of Bolivia’s rural population compared with 60% of urban dwellers.