Over the past week, Afryea's friends were receiving more and more messages from her over WhatsApp - and all thanks to the installation of an amazing “wooden pole”.
Afryea is a teacher in a village located in a rural region of Ghana. Having had the privilege of studying in cities, Afryea is used to using WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram. However, she explains that it took her an inordinate amount of time to readjust to the life without these Apps after she returned to this village, as it rarely has any signal.
Afryea is now delighted to deliver the news to her friends that mobile services are becoming increasingly accessible for a surprisingly long list of devices in her village.
Nyakpoo, the village chief, explained to Afryea why people simply couldn't access the network: the nearest base station was more than 20 kilometers from here, so achieving signal reception was no easy task. Before the “wooden pole” base station was installed, the village chief himself often needed to ride his motorcycle a few miles to get closer to a base station in order to use Mobile Money. "Since our village suffered from a lack of electricity and fibre optic cables, there was simply no other way to build a base station. I am amazed that all these issues can be solved with a simple piece of wood."
Challenges and Opportunities Ahead
Of course, that simple piece of wood has a little help in the form of the RuralStar solution, which is designed to provide networks in rural areas.
In Ghana, 5 million people remain sparsely scattered throughout many remote areas, having little or no access to internet. In recent years, both operators and the governments have been working closely to bring networks to these rural areas. The biggest sticking point is that operators cannot expect a reasonable return on investment, even with the additional government subsidies.
Afryea’s village has only 2,500 people in total, which means that recouping the cost of just one base station could take as long as ten years. Another troubling dilemma is that building a base station in these villages will cost more compared to deploying one in an urban area. This is due to the absence of adequate electricity and transmission networks; 1 Mbit/s bandwidth satellite transmission adds up to a cost of over USD 1000 per month, which is utterly unfeasible for such an area.
The RuralStar solution changes this. The solution uses a Relay based on 4G technology to realise data transmission, rather than expensive satellite or microwave. Relay transmission does not have the same line of sight (LOS) constraints, allowing a base station to be constructed on a simple wooden telegraph pole instead of a 30m dedicated tower. With low power consumption, RuralStar can be powered just by using six solar panels.
Afryea’s village was chosen as one of the first to implement RuralStar. The wooden pole to accommodate the base station is prepared locally in the village. The base station deployment was completed in just one week, with total costs reduced by around 70%, and the pole is now helping to deliver mobile services. Even with such a small population, the operator can expect to recoup the investment in just three years.
A New Horizon for Rural Mobile Users
Having finished installing the base station, one of the engineers involved received a notification that his mobile credit balance was low. To express his appreciation for the engineer’s work, the village chief was able to provide him with a recharge via Mobile Money – an immediate demonstration of the benefits that the new base station would go on to provide.
The village chief has vowed to ensure that the equipment is well-protected, as it has changed the lives of the people in his village. Afryea is already starting to long for network connections for computers so that she can begin teaching local children how to use them.
* All names have been changed to protect privacy.
For more information about RuralStar, please visit: http://www.huawei.com/en/press-events/news/2018/2/Huawei-RuralStar-GSMA-AWARD