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Improving rural mobile coverage remains one of the top policy goals of telecoms regulators and governments worldwide. Mobile network operators (MNOs) have an incentive to only roll out their networks in areas where it is profitable to do so. This may lead to some areas being underserved or completely unserved by mobile voice and broadband providers. This is a growing concern for policymakers, given the social benefits (positive externalities) from expanding coverage, including rural development, social inclusion, and public safety.

In a recent white paper, NERA Associate Directors Hans-Martin Ihle and Dr. Will Taylor argue that the current practice of attaching coverage obligations to new spectrum licenses is less appealing in mature mobile markets. They also explore potentially attractive alternative options for decoupling spectrum allocation and the procurement of coverage. Decoupling can deliver more flexibility when procuring coverage and, thus, improved social welfare, a more efficient allocation of spectrum, and a cost-efficient procurement of coverage.

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