Connecting Indonesian Islands (documentary)
(Nov. 2022) Just like nearly everyone in the world, Indonesians hope for a signal when they look at their phone. It’s a reasonable expectation. But setting up the wireless infrastructure to provide that signal isn’t easy in a country made up of mountains and thick jungles. And Indonesia's tropical location means that the weather there regularly brings downpours or harsh heat.
Indonesia's tropical paradise islands are often unconnected
Our documentary "Connecting the Islands” follows to the far corners of Indonesia the intrepid engineers and technicians who routinely overcome daunting obstacles to deliver essential connectivity to isolated communities. Indonesia is often called the land of a thousand islands; but there are in fact many more than that.
Communications technologies must be affordable for Indonesia's remote villages
"Indonesia is a country whose area consists of land and water,” says Jonny G. Plate, Minister of Information and Communications Technologies. “It covers 7.5mn square km and has 17,500 islands that we need to connect… all of them!”
This 20min documentary takes you to the remotest areas of the province of Papua in East Indonesia. There, geography poses particularly tall challenges. Just getting to the various Papuan islands can be hazardous because of high waves at sea when the weather suddenly changes. And on land, heavy rains often turn roads into muddy pools that SUVs get stuck in. Occasionally, the only practical way for Huawei engineers to cross a river to reach a base station site is with ziplines.
Just getting to the site with the equipment can be a huge challenge
It’s not just the engineers that need to get to the sites, the equipment needs to be brought in as well. “There was a site, once you reach the village, you have to walk three kilometers to the site,” recalls Huawei Wireless Engineer Muhammad Umar Safi’i. “Our team needs to carry the heavy tools for 3kms on foot.”
For Danu Prahara, Installation Team Leader at Huawei partner CGI, every day spent delivery connectivity to the residents of Papua brings its own challenges. “All the work in Papua is an adventure,” he says. “There is never an easy journey.”
Climbing tall towers safely to set up butterfly sites requires training
But in the end, it’s all worth it. Umar Safi’i recalls the tears in the eyes of a villager once she spotted a signal on her phone. This meant she would no longer need to walk to the end of the village’s pier in the faint hope of being able to connect with a relative.
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 cheap, 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 poles. They typically can provide network coverage over several frequency bands and can serve a wider territory because of their height.
Watch the video Connecting the Islands. It was released to coincide with our event on 23 Nov. 2022 Sustainability event Connectivity+: Innovate for Impact where thought leaders on connectivity explained the benefits of being connected and how to provide network access to the many people who still lack it.