According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU), more than 87% of the world's population is now within range of a mobile signal, and 55% within range of a 3G network. Among the world's poorest 20% of households, nearly 7 out of 10 have a mobile phone – more households in developing countries own a mobile phone than have access to electricity or clean water. However, there is still up to half a billion people unconnected to any form of telecommunications and these people are disproportionately located in developing countries. Huawei understands this challenge and our technologies can enable the widest possible coverage through high power and more targeted transmission. Huawei also integrates multiple technologies such as cellular, WiFi, and microwave, to make deployment both faster and cheaper. Affordability is critical if we are to bridge the digital divide.
We continuously pursue innovation in network technologies to adapt to the needs of emerging economies and demanding geographies so all people can be within range of a mobile signal.
Huawei's Innovations Help Overcome the Challenges of Rural Coverage
Huawei's RuralStar 2.0 solution was launched in 2017 to reduce rural coverage costs. It is specifically designed to provide both 2G voice, SMS, and mobile money services as well as 3G broadband data services for rural communities. With low power consumption, easy installation, and innovative technologies (including battery technology) and tower design, it shortens the payback period for carriers to less than five years and promotes rural network construction in emerging markets. So far, the solution has been successfully deployed by 12 carriers in eight countries and regions, including Thailand, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Mexico.
The cost of building and operating traditional rural network macro sites is high, much higher than in urban areas, and the average revenue per user can be as low as US$1 to US$3 in remote areas, much less than in urban areas. These numbers make it hard for carriers to justify a business case for expanding network coverage in rural areas. Carriers face many challenges like difficulty in providing transmission or backhaul to sites, high civil construction costs, lack of stable power supplies, and long deployment time. Investment in traditional network deployment can therefore take over 10 years to recoup, if it is recouped at all. This makes carriers reluctant to invest and requires large subsidies from governments.
For users, RuralStar can provide 2G, 3G, or 4G rural mobile broadband providing rates of over 10 Mbs at cell edges with a coverage of three-to-five kilometers, more than enough for most small rural villages. RuralStar can extend 2G and 3G coverage up to 60 kilometers from existing macro sites.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a RuralStar site deployment took only eight days – less than 60% of the time taken for previous towers and at a third of the cost. In Ghana, local villagers used to climb to rooftops and trees, or even ride a dozen kilometers to find telephone signals. RuralStar has addressed these issues. Villagers can now use WhatsApp to communicate and share pictures at home and transfer money and recharge phone accounts through Mobile Money.
Thanks to RuralStar, tens of millions of previously unconnected people will now be able to access mobile networks for the first time and enjoy mobile technology.
Huawei's RuralStar solution in Ghana
Duse is a remote town in Northeast Kenya with an estimated population of 3,000 people. Before RuralStar was deployed, it had no communication network. People had to walk 20 kilometers to the next town to use the Internet. Literacy levels were low, and security was a challenge. Huawei and its customer, Safaricom, installed RuralStar in 2017 and brought 2G and 3G communications to Duse for the first time. Within two months there were 556 users, of which 95 were using smartphones to access 3G broadband. The effect was transformational.
• Better healthcare: People can now call for ambulance services, and nurses who work at the local dispensary can now access online health information to help treat their patients. Previously they had to travel 20 kilometers to the nearest phone booth to place orders for new medicines. Now they can do this whenever supplies run low.
• Better security: Villagers reported security as a serious problem with bandit raids all too common. Public security has now improved. Incidents can be reported quickly and the Kenya Police Reserve and Administration Police can mobilize faster whenever clashes are reported. They can now access online information, monitor events, and submit reports more quickly.
• Better services: M-PESA from Safaricom, which is Kenya's most popular mobile money service and runs on Huawei technology, became accessible for the first time. Villagers and shopkeepers can use their phones to securely and conveniently save and store money, trade goods, re-stock their stores, and sell their products.
• Better education: Duse primary school has 320 students and eight teachers. According to the head teacher, attendance has improved because of improved security within the village. Teachers with smartphones have been able to access information online, show videos and other content to students to aid their teaching, and stay up to date with government notices.
Whilst other challenges associated with the digital divide remain, such as improving basic knowledge and skills to access mobile services, Duse witnessed real improvement in villagers' lives because of RuralStar. We believe this experience is important and can be replicated throughout the world.
Connectivity for the First Time in Duse Village, Kenya
Myanmar's challenging geographical landscape contains dense forests and hard-to-reach communities. Because of difficult weather conditions (e.g., a seven-month rainy season) and other challenges such as flooded roads and patchy energy supplies, Myanmar is perhaps one of the last great telecom "green fields" in Asia. These factors present enormous challenges for network deployment and pose exacting requirements on network quality and efficiency.
To meet our customer's needs, Huawei's design included fixed and mobile network technologies, energy generation facilities, 7,000-plus base stations, and advanced cable engineering and network protection technology used for over 2,000 km coverage. We utilized 20 different base station tower designs, seven different wireless solutions, 18 different types of power generation units, and 26 different microwave solutions. Huawei completed the network project after 26 months of extraordinary work. For the first time, 13 million people (one fifth of the country's population) now have access to an advanced telecommunications system.
Our commitment doesn't stop there. Huawei continues to invest resources in Myanmar to improve digital inclusion. For example, Huawei inaugurated its first Huawei Authorized Information Network Academy (HAINA) in Myanmar with Thanlyin University of Science and Technology in Yangon, which is our 147th academy worldwide. The objective of HAINA is to help grow urgently needed technical knowledge and expertise in Myanmar, and ultimately to ensure the benefits of connectivity are shared by local people.
Base station under construction
Myanmar children enjoying access to the Internet for the first time
Data shows that there are approximately 13 million visually impaired people in China. Using a mobile phone to communicate and obtain information is a major hurdle that they face in everyday life. Huawei initiated its Information Accessibility Project based on insights into the intense desire of the visually impaired to use a mobile phone normally.
Since the Emotion User Interface 5.1 (EMUI5.1) system, Huawei has partnered with the influential industry organization Information Accessibility Research Association. Throughout the development of the Information Accessibility Project, Huawei leveraged its expertise in technology to enable accessibility functionality to better meet the needs of target users.
Huawei's text-to-speech (TTS) functionality comes by default in new devices, enabling visually impaired users to configure a new phone independently after turning it on. When a new Huawei smartphone is powered on for the first time, the TTS functionality can be enabled simply by placing two fingers anywhere on the screen. With the assistance of Chinese language TTS, the entire process of phone setup becomes easy. The user can hear phone numbers by tapping the dial pad, thus avoiding unintended commands being made by double-taps during calls. This feature makes phone calls much easier. Huawei also added differentiation between the Chinese words for "he" and "she", which sound the same in spoken Chinese, helping users to more accurately express and obtain information.
The Huawei EMUI 5.1 system provides more than 50 standard accessibility options, which have made more user-friendly for the visually impaired. Its accessibility enables users to live, travel, shop, and seek out entertainment independently. By making the phones "accessible right out of the box", Huawei is bridging the digital divide for visually impaired people.
A visual impaired person is using a mobile phone to communicate and obtain information