How technology is connecting the unconnected

2020.07.29 By Ritchie Peng, President of 5G Product Line, Huawei
Gan Bin

Over the past 30 years, wireless network capacity has increased by 10,000 times, with a new generation of wireless communication technology coming out every decade, and today’s generation taking us into the gigabit era. But, the digital divide still exists. Across the globe, millions of people, households, and organizations are unable to reap the benefits of this technological development because they’re not connected to the Internet.

According to GSMA, 750 million people lack mobile Internet coverage and half of the world's population lack Internet access. Even in Western Europe, there's still only weak coverage in 50 percent of buildings.

Technology should benefit all of humanity. That's why Huawei is committed to creating leading solutions to connect the unconnected as fast as possible. For example, the RuralStar series of solutions can provide high-quality voice and data services at optimal TCO in all network scenarios in rural areas. 

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Fixed Wireless Access (FWA/WTTx) solutions address last-mile access problems for households in densely populated urban areas and sparsely populated rural areas, while our DIS (Digital Indoor System) meets the diverse needs of indoor coverage service scenarios. 

These solutions are bringing wireless connectivity to unconnected rural stars, homes, and buildings.

Remote with RuralStar

In around 30 percent of Africa, operators find it hard to guarantee network transmission and power supply due to their remoteness. Because traditional solutions incur high CAPEX and ROI takes eight to ten years, carriers are unwilling to roll out networks in remote areas.

Without wireless connectivity, people not only miss out on the convenience of the Internet, they also cannot develop the digital skills necessary to lift them out of poverty.

Starting in 2017, Huawei has released a series of solutions for villages to meet the burgeoning voice and data needs of people in unconnected areas and reduce operator ROI for rural network deployment. They include RuralStar for villages with populations of over 1,000 and RuralStar Lite for settlements of between 500 and 1,000 people.

These solutions dramatically reduce the cost and difficulty of site deployment by transforming satellite transmissions into wireless backhaul, substituting towers for simple poles, and shifting from diesel to solar power. They also eliminate the need for fences and cabinets as all equipment is pole-mounted.

RuralStar solutions have been deployed in over 50 countries, providing high-quality voice and high-speed data services to more than 40 million rural dwellers.

Huawei launched RuralStar Pro at the 2020 Huawei Products and Solutions Launch in London. The new solution includes features that fill coverage blind spots in extremely remote rural areas with fewer than 500 people.

Adopting an all-in-one design, RuralStar Pro uses high integration-density chips and, for the first time, integrates baseband, radio frequency (RF), and wireless backhaul functions into one module. These features dramatically lower the power used across the whole site and reduce dependency on support infrastructure, with only two solar panels needed to meet the power consumption demands of the whole site. The use of simplified poles installed directly into the ground simplifies civil engineering works and enables fast four-day delivery. Automated plug-and-play site installation solves the issue of the lack of specialist technicians in extremely remote rural areas.

RuralStar Pro adopts innovative hardware to simplify the support infrastructure required, greatly reducing the cost and difficulty of site deployment. The payback period for carriers is just three to five years, even for rural villages with populations of under 500.

WTTx: Connecting unconnected households

In affluent densely populated places, fiber rollout can be incredibly difficult and slow due to hurdles like private land and right of way. In some cases, it can take years to gain access to certain buildings and properties, meaning that operators cannot provide broadband services to residents. Young renters are often reluctant to install home broadband, despite being heavy Internet users, because they move addresses often.

And in remote areas, issues like high deployment and maintenance costs, long construction cycles, and poor ROI are common because of the number of processes involved in deploying wired home broadband. These include trenching, installing troughs, and laying underground cables, making it unsuitable for less developed regions.

Developed by Huawei, WTTx is a wireless broadband access solution that provides a fiber-like experience to meet the needs of the broadband market. The solution has gained traction in the mobile market over the past few years.

In the 4G era, WTTx harnessed Huawei's Massive MIMO solution combined with high-performance customer premises equipment (CPE) for maximum spectrum efficiency. WTTx raised spectrum efficiency by three to five times, and cut the cost per gigabyte to between one-quarter and one-tenth of traditional MBB services. It continues to provide fast, low-cost wireless home broadband services for densely populated urban areas and sparsely populated rural areas alike.

In overseas markets, WTTx boasts over 100 million users, forming an effective way to supplement optical fiber broadband connections. In Sri Lanka, for instance, one operator increased broadband penetration from 9 percent to 26 percent of households by leveraging WTTx, helping 800,000 people escape the digital vacuum.

The 5G WTTx service is a natural evolution of 4G WTTx. Industry observers believe that it’s the 5G service most likely to be rolled out first commercially. It will provide homes with a gigabit user experience and meet the medium- and long-term fixed broadband service requirements of smart homes, 4K, AR/VR, and SMEs.

Huawei's latest WTTx CPE is lightweight and easy to install. Two forms of weather-proof outdoor installation – wall- and pole-mounted – are supported. The outdoor and indoor units are connected by a flat cable that can be fed through a gap between the window and frame, so that holes don't need to be drilled in the wall. This avoids the time-consuming expense of professional installation.

DIS: Connecting unconnected buildings

Over 70 percent of traffic on 4G networks originates from indoor locations. Industry predictions show that as 5G service types and the scope of the industry continue to grow, more than 80 percent of future data traffic will originate from indoors. In the 5G-powered era, indoor mobile networks will therefore become a core competitive strength for operators.

In legacy macro site coverage solutions offering outdoor-to-indoor coverage, the signal can only provide shallow coverage. When it penetrates obstacles such as brick walls, glass, and cement, a good experience promised by deep indoor coverage cannot be guaranteed.

However, since legacy components like combiners and power splitters don’t support 5G's new frequency bands, there’s no way to support MIMO by installing extra feeders and antennas. This prevents smooth evolution from a distributed antenna system (DAS) to 5G.

Huawei has launched a series of new 5G DIS products and solutions that are less than 2L in volume to bring 5G into buildings and enable industries.

For high-volume, high-value scenarios requiring a good experience, such as airports, train stations, and shopping malls, Huawei has launched a more powerful 5G 4T4R LampSite product, which supports headend equipment at the 160 MHz, 200 MHz, and 300 MHz bandwidths to meet the needs of various deployment scenarios. By the end of 2019, LampSite had been deployed in more than 20,000 buildings by almost 40 operators in 28 countries.

In 2020, 5G will gradually rollout to factories, hospitals and other vertical industries as 5G modules for industry are commercially adopted on a wide scale. Huawei launched LampSite EE for industry scenarios based on five 5G capabilities: indoor ultra-broadband, indoor precise positioning, industrial-grade ultra-low latency, indoor high reliability, and industrial-grade high-density concurrency. The solution is designed to help carriers and enterprise users build modern wireless networks and accelerate the digital transformation of vertical industries. 

Wherever connections go, more opportunities emerge, triggering socioeconomic development. Huawei designs industry-leading network solutions that can connect the unconnected and help eliminate the digital divide, so that everyone can enjoy universal, equal Internet access.