Wi-Fi ‘essential’ to bridge digital divide in rural areas

Although connectivity is much talked about these days, those in small towns, remote communities and other sparsely populated areas The world knows the struggle to get a service worthy of the name. To solve these problems, Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) published a The report states that Wi-Fi will be the most cost-effective and efficient technology that uses the best available backhaul solutions to bridge the digital divide.

Rural Wi-Fi Connectivity: Challenges, Use Cases and Case Studies More than mentioned One billion people worldwide currently live in rural communities where Internet access is poor or completely unavailable. This severely limits their access to important digital services e.g Telehealth and online education, as well as job opportunities that involve telecommuting.

This digital divide persists in both developed and developing countries and threatens to become the “new face of inequality”. According to UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed. The WBA noted that the Biden-Harris administration Announced $502m for high-speed internet in rural communities To help solve problems in the United States.

The survey also found that two-thirds of the world’s school-age children – or 1.3 billion children aged 3 to 17 – do not have an Internet connection at home, according to a joint report. UNICEF and International Telecommunication Union (ITU)which counts 2.9 billion of the world’s population is still offlineAbout 96% of them are in developing countries.

Even among the 4.9 billion counted as “Internet users”, several million people have the opportunity to go online only infrequently, through shared devices or using connection speeds that significantly limit the usefulness of their connections. Also, for some of the world’s poorest countries, getting online can cost 20% or more of gross national income (GNI) per capita.

The WBA report, led by WBA members C-DOT, HFCL and Meta, includes strategies and best practices that “service providers can use to ensure proper quality of service,” making Wi-Fi ideal for distance learning, telehealth, e-commerce . , the Internet of Things (IoT), video streaming and other consumer, business and government applications. Through use cases and real-world case studies, the report explores a variety of deployment scenarios that address the unique challenges of rural environments with different types of backhaul, targeted applications, market conditions, and other factors.

The report provides guidelines for regulators to maximize the potential of Wi-Fi to bridge the digital divide in rural areas. A prime example is ensuring that the new 6 GHz band is available for use, providing service providers with additional spectrum to support more users and deliver the required speed and performance.

Potential use cases that the WBA says give operators a versatile and cost-effective technology to expand their services to rural areas point to fiber providers using Wi-Fi to extend their services to rural areas via microwave. This avoids the cost and time of burying or stringing fiber in remote areas with challenging terrain such as rivers, mountains and rocks.

“With Wi-Fi 6, the bandwidth of unlicensed band microwave links will increase and may reach 1 Gbps,” the report said. “A telecom operator in India is already deploying a network called Bharat Air Fiber in rural areas based on a similar architecture.”

In another example, the report suggests that cellular operators are able to use Wi-Fi to provide fixed and mobile broadband services. it is Note that the average cost of setting up a cellular tower covering a population of about 4,000 spread over 1 km2 Wi-Fi deployment costs at least 20 times more in capital and operational costs compared to a mere $2,500. This includes outdoor Wi-Fi equipment, external antennas, solar panels, solar charge controllers, batteries, outdoor PoE, poles and earthing, cabling and two years of fiber backhaul subscription costs.

“Wi-Fi uniquely extends voice, video and broadband services to the nearly one billion people worldwide who have poor or no connectivity,” said Tiago Rodriguez, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

“Unlike cellular, Wi-Fi is already built into virtually all smartphones, tablets, laptops, streaming boxes and other devices. This ubiquity means that Wi-Fi has a high-volume, low-cost structure that is critical to ensuring that devices and services can be priced low enough to maximize adoption. As our report shows, these are some of the reasons why Wi-Fi is economically and technologically ideal for addressing the digital divide in rural areas.”

Rajkumar Upadhyay, Executive Director, C-dot India, co-author of the report, commented: “Global data demand is growing rapidly. It is supported by an affordable device ecosystem, availability of various quality content, over-the-top [OTT] services, e-learning, e-health and other new use cases. Covid-19 has exacerbated this demand and its demand is increasing in rural areas.

“Wi-Fi, an unlicensed band technology, is important from both access and backhaul perspectives. In India, Wi-Fi is being used not only as access but also to enhance connectivity, for example, from village panchayats [GP] in neighboring villages. Use of Wi-Fi technology to establish point-to-point and multi-point links in unlicensed bands is one of the alternative and cost-effective technologies to extend connectivity from fiber points to nearby villages.”

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