LIVE FROM HUAWEI GLOBAL ANALYST SUMMIT, SHENZHEN: Huawei aims to make investing in rural infrastructure in emerging markets more attractive with a line of wireless infrastructure products designed to optimise spectrum usage and significantly reduce the time to recover the initial investment.

Alex Zhang, vice director of wireless marketing operation at Huawei, said high input costs and low ARPU in emerging markets make it unattractive for mobile operators to deploy networks in many rural areas. About 20 per cent of the world’s population is still not covered by mobile networks.

With an estimated 1.7 billion people without a voice connection and 50 per cent of the world still on 2G networks, Zhang said there is strong demand for lower-cost network gear capable of increasing operators’ return on investment (ROI).

Huawei developed a line of base station products to improve operators’ investment efficiency, Zhang said: “By making it more attractive for them to invest, they can focus on expanding coverage in rural areas. The solutions also allow them to use technology to maximise the value of their spectrum resources.”

Spectrum and energy costs are generally higher in developing markets, which also have much lower income levels. He noted emerging markets tend to have less spectrum available and more 2G subscribers than developed countries.

Huawei’s RuralStar base station can reduce the time to recover the investment to less than five years, compared with more than ten years for traditional rural sites Zhang said. The new site cuts power consumption by 85 per cent and lowers total costs by 70 per cent, the company said.

The vendor is having discussions with a number of operators in Africa and Asia about deploying RuralStar sites. Zhang is optimistic there will be strong demand, but noted the new site won’t represent a large percentage of total base station production.

Urban coverage
The Huawei executive said urban areas also face many challenges in deploying base stations including high rental fees, difficulty in finding appropriate sites and slow deployments, which can take at least one month.

To overcome these, Huawei developed PoleStar, which can be installed on lamp posts and a variety of other locations in a matter of hours. Zhang said operators can take advantage of more than 1 billion lamp posts, 10 million bus stops and 10 million phone booths around the world to deploy new base stations more cost effectively.

A PoleStar deployment in Thailand using existing traffic and light posts significantly reduced the site footprint, which led to a 66 per cent cut in rental costs.

The company’s GU@5MHz product enables spectrum sharing on existing 2G, 3G and 4G spectrum bands. It uses 5MHz on the highly efficient 900MHz band. Zhang said Huawei launched six live networks in Brazil, Egypt, India, Nigeria and Poland, and is holding discussions with an additional 20 operators.