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Rural connectivity

Access for all is a priority for Vodafone - rural connectivity and mobile internet usage is a focus area for us.


Connecting everyone to digital services, particularly across Africa, is a significant challenge. Fixed and mobile services are increasing globally, with mobile broadband networks reaching 95% of the world’s population, but coverage in Africa lags behind at 83%.

Expanding coverage to rural networks remains a focus for us, with 25% of the EU population and 58% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa living in rural areas. Expansion of rural networks can often be more challenging and have a lower return on investment due to lower population densities.

New approaches, partnerships, and a blend of technologies help us to overcome some of these barriers and deliver more universal coverage. In order to drive digital inclusion to the hardest-to-connect communities, this year we made good progress on our goal to increase 4G population coverage to an additional 80 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa (as part of the UN Partner2Connect digital coalition since March 2022). This targeted intervention includes four of the least-developed countries (‘LDCs’): Mozambique, Tanzania, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’), and will help to close a particular gap in internet usage between urban communities and rural communities. This year we have added 4G technology to an additional 1,429 sites across these countries, giving access to millions more people in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Europe, as well as in Africa, we are also increasing investment in rural areas, helping farmers and other rural small businesses overcome barriers to connectivity and digitisation.

2023 Network deployment


Rural connectivity in Europe and Africa


Within the EU, 25% of the population live in rural areas.

Rural areas lack the infrastructure to enable citizens to get online and access digital tools.

Poor connectivity makes it harder for rural businesses to connect to their customers and other parts of the value chain to leverage IoT productivity tools.

It also makes it harder for schools to teach digital skills, and healthcare professionals to exchange knowledge with central facilities.

New approaches and a blend of technologies will help us to deliver universal mobile coverage across Europe.

How next generation networks can help bridge the rural digital divide

For rural economies in Europe, next generation networks are the critical infrastructure that will provide opportunities to create new jobs, improve agricultural productivity and enhance local public services.

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10% increase in broadband penetration is associated with an increase of GDP growth of 0.6% - 2.8%.

A review of 5G use cases conducted by IHS Markit estimated that global rollout of 5G could enable an approximate €11 trillion increase in global cross-sector output by 2035.

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Rural business

Rural firms in the Province of Trento, Italy, increased their annual turnover by c.40% and value added by c.25% following the roll out of a public broadband delivery programme

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80 new jobs created for every 1,000 new broadband users

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Increasing smartphone ownership

International Telecommunications Union ‘ITU’ state that 2.6 billion people remain unconnected. We partner with the ITU and other organisations to address smartphone access challenges.

See our strategy in action

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Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

We aim to build a inclusive and sustainable digital society. Through our connectivity and digital innovations (SDG 9) and through our partnerships (SDG 17) we can accelerate and scale delivery across multiple SDGs.

Read about our inclusion for all stories