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Connecting Papuans to mobile internet

You could say that Yubin “Sam” Jiang has made a home in Indonesia. The Huawei team leader of delivery and service has lived in the country since 2010. And 12 years later, he still gets a kick out of providing connectivity to remote places. It’s priceless to see the gratitude in the eyes of villagers who realize they will no longer have to travel hours by boat to get a signal, he reports.

Papua, in the east of the country, is where he worked recently. “There are so many villages and kids in Papua,” he says. “But the island has no signal coverage.”

A Papuan wet market

Like anywhere else in the world, Papuans have the expectation of phone connectivity. Life is hard enough in the region without having to spend hours to find a way to connect with a relative in a different city, a potential employer or customer, or a better school that your kids could attend.

“Nature has given Papuans a beautiful landscape, but also created many difficulties for the area,” Jiang says understatedly.

Papuan province: spectacular geography, but hard place to install wireless networks

To install wireless telecommunications infrastructure, Jiang and his team have to cross treacherous seas to reach isolated islands. Once on land, the gravel roads, when they exist, are routinely washed away by rains, forcing the SUVs that carry Huawei equipment into cross muddy tools in which they sometimes become stuck. And then, the last few kilometers to reach a suitable wireless tower site may have to be done by foot, carrying the heavy gear.

Still, setting up wireless networks is easier than the alternative, which would to lay out optical fiber fixed lines. “Mobile Internet is the most suitable technology in this area,” Jiang says. “Compared with a fixed network, 4G mobile is much cheaper in terms of both equipment and servicing.” 

Sam Jiang

Despite the frequent hardships, Jiang doesn’t lose sight of how critical his successful performance is to Papuans. The province, he says, is home to large families. “We need to reduce the digital divide for the future, for the kids,” he says. “We need to do more for them, for their education and development.”

Connectivity is playing a foundational role in fostering development throughout Indonesia. The national government has a policy to provide everyone in the vast archipelago of 17,500 islands with a decent connection, no matter where they live. Huawei is working hard with its local partners to make that ambitious vision become a reality.

Towers need to be taller than the surrounding jungle

Huawei has developed a wide range of products, technologies, and knowhow to provide connectivity for the tens of millions of people around the world who are still unconnected. This includes low-cost antennas; solar power, batteries, and energy-management systems; and a vast range of microwave links that can reach isolated communities.

The solutions can be basic and highly affordable, or more sophisticated, depending on local needs. Huawei’s highly economical RuralStar solution represents a complete rethink of base station design. RuralStar is made up of robust but simple telecommunications components. The kit requires so little energy to operate that a few solar panels are enough. More complex “Butterfly Sites” are set up on taller antenna towers. They typically can provide network coverage over several frequency bands and can serve a wider territory because of their height.

Watch Sam Jiang’s story below. And for more about Huawei's efforts to Connect the Unconnected, see our event of Nov. 23 2022 Sustainability event Connectivity+: Innovate for Impact