Movistar, the Mexican subsidiary of the Spanish telecom company Telefónica, recently announced that they would be starting a franchise-type approach to connect rural areas by sharing responsibility with local entrepreneurs. A few months ago we approached them with this idea, mainly in order to start a dialogue that we hoped would lead to a partnership of sorts in which Telefónica would allow us to use their frequencies in rural areas in exchange for our help in fulfilling their universal service obligations with the regulatory agency in Mexico. They were pretty luke-warm about our proposal, but it seems they have warmed up to the idea. So much so that (from the scant information we have) they are more or less copying our model. At first we didn’t know what to make of the news, but as we thought about it more, we realized that in some way (large or small) we have been able to influence the way the second largest provider of mobile phone services in Mexico does business. Whether it is Rhizomatica that does the connecting directly, or we instigate Telefónica or someone else to do so, there are tens of thousands of unconnected localities here and our overall goal is to get them covered.
If you are able to read Spanish, here is a link to a story about what Telefónica is trying to do.