PARTNER FEATURE: Challenges associated with propagating signals across rural areas and indoors are faced by operators across the world and significantly hamper the vision of truly ubiquitous connectivity in both developed and developing markets.
Speaking at 5G Bring New Value: Huawei Product and Solutions Launch Huawei Wireless Network CMO Ritchie Peng presented the latest cutting-edge solutions designed to help operators improve coverage across all network technologies to rural areas, within homes and other indoor scenarios.
Peng noted even within Western Europe, where the expectation is for seamless connectivity, half of areas had low indoor coverage, with limitations in buildings and locations such as trains and underground systems.
GSMA figures released in 2019 estimated 750 million people globally lack access to 3G or 4G connectivity, due to sporadic coverage in some regions alongside limited access to devices. Peng added 50 per cent of people didn’t connect to the internet even where it was available.
Filling coverage gaps and addressing accessibility are issues actively addressed by Huawei, with specific products designed to expand connectivity in a cost-effective and sustainable way.
A major focus area for Huawei in the last two years has been the provision of internet access in rural areas lacking any wireless connectivity.
The company’s RuralStar and RuralStar Lite products have already delivered wireless access to almost 40 million people. To build on this success, Peng unveiled the new RuralStar Pro.
Explaining upgrades provided in its next generation RuralStar, Peng noted common challenges faced by operators in rural connectivity cover three core areas – enabling signal transmission; acquiring sufficient power; and site accessibility.
RuralStar Pro combines the RRU, BBU and RRN into a single box, reducing the requirements on the base station. Power can be acquired from two built-in solar panels which, he noted, made the whole system very energy efficient.
The system is designed to provide coverage to villages with a population of fewer than 500 people. It supports both 2G and 4G, by integrating baseband, RF and wireless backhaul into one module. Its supporting pole is 6 metres high, making installation more straightforward than alternatives.
“No matter if it’s paid for by the operators or government, they all need to consider the return on investment,” he added. “This is why Huawei works to reduce the effort on transport and difficulty to connect to the electricity and also installation. By doing all of this we bring the cost of deploying our solutions in rural areas down to allow the stakeholders to get a return more easily.”
Huawei released its first iteration of RuralStar in 2017, with the Lite version added in 2019, paving the way for the evolution to the new Pro option.
Widening indoor coverage
While rural connectivity is a pressing concern for many, the challenge of indoor connectivity is also a significant one for operators across a range of markets.
However, recent innovations from Huawei here are able to ease the provision of 5G coverage indoors while lowering the cost of installation.
“We have already started to connect to the home from 4G and now we believe this will continue into 5G,” Peng said. “The most important thing is 5G will be able to provide a solution for connection to the home with 1Gb/s capacity, this means it is the first time we are able to provide wideband throughput for internet to the home with wireless.”
Citing Huawei predictions, Peng said by 2025 the number of connections delivered over WTTx, a wireless home broadband technology providing inexpensive last mile access in residential areas, would rise to 500 million. By the end of 2019 the technology was used in 100 million properties as fixed wireless access solutions gain popularity with operators and consumers alike.
Compared to fixed lines, WTTx reduces connection costs by 75 per cent and shortens the deployment period by 90 per cent.
Frequently-used technologies to deliver connections to the home, he added, often have significant installation challenges as equipment needs to be attached to the outside of buildings and connected to indoor kit through a hole in the wall or window frame.
However, Huawei’s newest range of CPEs are lightweight, easy to install and support wall-hanging installations. It is also able to connect to equipment inside the building via a small strip, which is thin enough to run through a small gap around a window, reducing the need for expensive and time-consuming professional installation.
Of course, indoor issues are not limited to residential buildings, with factories, offices, hotels, transport systems and leisure venues among the many places suffering sub-optimal connectivity. In Europe, he noted, products addressing these needs had to be provisioned to utilise fragmented spectrum assets and serve more than one mobile operator.
To achieve this Huawei developed its latest LampSite solution, which is able to support four operators on a wide range of 5G frequencies.
It is part of the company’s Digital Indoor System (DIS) range, which includes products designed specifically for provisioning coverage across a wide range of in-building and other indoor scenarios.
Discussing the prospects of its wide-ranging coverage solutions, Peng said: “We are able to provide extensive cellular coverage from the urban city, suburban, rural, home and indoor.”Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back