Drew Clark: Look to the Global South to Understand BEAD in America

What can the United States learn from broadband deployments in the Global South?

Drew Clark: Look to the Global South to Understand BEAD in America
The author of this Expert Opinion is Luke Hogg, director of outreach at the Foundation for American Innovation.

January 16, 2024 – After a long period of preparation, 2024 is destined to be the year of BEAD. The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program is beginning finally to hit its stride, as broadband mapping challenge processes begin in earnest. This $42.5 billion program of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration promises much, but potential pitfalls are also quite present.

When thinking of BEAD as America’s broadband building – which is what it is – it is useful to occasionally look abroad. And sometimes it’s good to look to countries that may not always appear just like America.

That’s what Broadband Breakfast Live Online will be doing in our free online session on Wednesday, January 17, at 12 Noon ET: Broadband Deployment from India, Australia, South Africa: What can the United States learn from broadband deployments in the Global South?

Broadband Breakfast on Wednesday, January 17, 2024 – Broadband Deployment from India, Australia, South Africa
What can the United States learn from fascinating broadband deployments in the Global South?

By now, the National Broadband Network in Australia plays a key role in the nation’s infrastructure. But it wasn’t always so.

Conceived as a government initiative to upgrade the country’s internet infrastructure on an open access model, the NBN’s construction involved laying thousands of miles (er, kilometers) of fiber-optic (er, fibre-optic) cables and also incorporated satellite and wireless technologies to reach remote areas.

Our guest for Wednesday’s program, Dan Flemming, is a senior executive and engineer with 25 years global experience and capability in the strategy development, establishment and management of large-scale deployment projects, and was formerly head of construction for NBN Co in Australia! He is the founder of Render Networks.


The world’s largest democracy has also seen significant recent developments in broadband infrastructure. Launched in 2016, BharatNet is one of the world’s largest rural telecommunications projects. (In Hindi, the word “Bharat” refers to India.)

The three-phase project aims to provide broadband connectivity at the Gram Panchayat level, the basic unit of local self-government in rural areas of India. It is essentially a village council, and its responsibilities including the maintenance of local infrastructure, sanitation, water supply, and agricultural development. BharatNet, as I understand it, is principally a fiber network, and is in its second phase of implementation.

In addition to BharatNet, the PM-WANI scheme, launched in 2020, focuses on increasing the proliferation of public Wi-Fi hotspots, especially in rural areas. Get this: It’s an acronym for “Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface.”

Our guest Niladri Dutta is an industry executive with two decades of global experience in advising telco majors in areas of technology strategy, CxOs advisory, portfolio and product management, and digital and operational transformation in many countries, including India.

South Africa

In the case of South Africa, less important than any government-led broadband infrastructure program has been the consistent deployment of fiber optic networks – in particular, open access networks.

Among these are the Automation Exchange, a fiber software company based in South African, and which has now expanded its operates to the U.S. AEX offers operations support system and business support system, often referred to as OSS/BSS software.

One of our guests for the event, Greg Wilson, is now CEO and co-founder of Ripple Fiber. He also founded AEX, which was designed for the well-developed open access networks of South Africa.

Please join and bring your questions to Broadband Breakfast Live Online on Wednesday, January 17, 2024!

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