LIVE FROM TIP SUMMIT 2019, AMSTERDAM: Internet para Todos (IpT), a wholesale operator owned by Telefonica, Facebook, and Latin American banks IDB Invest and CAF Bank, opened talks to bring a second operator on board, after connecting more than 650 sites and covering 800,000 people (450,000 actual customers) with a 4G rollout in rural Peru.

The initiative, only up and running since May 2019, is regarded as something of a poster child for OpenRAN technology, with vendor Parallel Wireless supplying compatible kit for more than half of those mobile sites (reports suggest Huawei is the other vendor, supplying more traditional equipment).

“Internet para Todos is serving Telefonica now but we are talking to other mobile operators: we hope to have a second MNO in 2020,” said IpT’s CTO Renan Ruiz during a keynote presentation.

Ruiz is confident the business model can be replicated in other rural areas around the world. “Our MNO partners can expand coverage and grow customers without spending capex,” he explained, adding the deployment acts as a “network as a service” model available to all MNOs.

IpT deploys, operates and owns the mobile infrastructure in the rollout.

In the Peru launch, Telefonica supplied around 3,000 sites (meaning many more are yet to be switched on), Facebook added capital and technology, and the two banks added further funding.

Another 1,000 greenfield sites will also be switched on.

The initiative makes use of new approaches to network deployment, using OpenRAN and RAN sharing technologies, along with disruptive new backhaul technologies including High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) and, in the operations area, cloud-based predictive analytics.

“We have to operate our network more efficiently and at a lower cost than traditional operators,” commented Ruiz. “We need low cost, scalable and disruptive technology that allows us to overcome the challenges we are facing in the rural areas of Peru.”

OpenRAN is a Telecom Infrastructure Project initiative to use software run on common hardware to lower network deployment costs, an approach which offers obvious benefits for rural rollouts.