RuralLink Bridges Digital Divide Across Rural Latin America

PRESS RELEASE: As a young boy, Lucas was raised on a farm in a small town 100 kilometers from Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. Now in college, Lucas lives like all students, using cell phones for all social interactions. When he returned to his hometown for the holidays, he found himself living alone as he could no longer communicate with his friends or classmates. Naturally, Lucas was surprised when one day his phone started receiving a lot of text messages. Unbeknownst to him, his village is connected through RuralLink, which Huawei has specially commissioned to promote rural access in emerging markets such as Colombia.

Why Are There No Cell Phone Networks?

“Why don’t we have stations here?” Lucas asked the village head in confusion.

“My village has few people, we don’t have light and electricity. So, no one wants to take 1–2 months to build a network and then wait another 10 years to recoup the cost, right?”

The RuralLink site was planted on the hill of the village. The chief went on to say, “Last week, we saw people digging holes where they put a pole where a small box and other pieces of wood were put together.” This pole is actually a RuralLink base station that provides Lucas’ phone with a full signal and connects him to his friends in town.

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Connecting Every Town in Colombia

Lucas wasn’t the only one feeling lonely. There are approximately 12,000 villages in remote rural areas across the country, 70% of which do not have mobile phone networks. Due to poor transportation and electricity availability in these areas, operators have to spend much more money than urban projects just to set up a network, or rent satellite links to provide mobile services. Each village has less than 1,000 people, and their income is less than half of their urban counterparts, so it can take operators a long time to get a return on their investment. But the lack of internet became a major problem for the Colombian government, which then launched an inclusive digital initiative aimed at bringing mobile networks to rural areas. The main reason for this achievement was the benefits brought by Huawei’s RuralLink solution.

This program is called “Digital Future for Everyone”, it is designed to bridge the digital divide across the country. According to this plan, operators are encouraged to install mobile phone networks in rural areas to receive 60% of the 700 MHz spectrum acquisition fee.

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For those participating in the program, RuralLink is a budget-friendly offering. Since it supports microwave fronthaul, for the first time, the rural area can use the baseband of the existing channels, and only one RRU and one node to support three sectors. This is called 1 and 1 equals 3. This new design can reduce the number of devices by 60% and the overall energy consumption by 40%. In this way, the site can have only solar energy.

By 2022, there will be more than 500 rural areas in Colombia, allowing hundreds of thousands of rural areas to jump into the digital world.

Similar cases can be found in many other countries throughout Latin America: in Brazil, the internet penetration rate in rural areas is around 34%, compared to 65% in urban areas, which is why the Brazilian government has mandated universal access as one users’ priorities during the 5G spectrum auction, to promote availability in rural areas and on roads; while in Mexico, 30 billion pesos (US$1.5 billion) have been earmarked by 2022 to provide 4G networks based on 700 MHz to more than 100,000 poorly connected villages, with additional plans to provide 100% mobile services to the population there are 25 million.

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Illuminating Latin America Through Integrated Communications

The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) reported in 2021 that 45% of the world’s population does not have a mobile internet connection. This is especially true in Latin America, where this number stands at 65% and more than 3% are not fully integrated. Governments in the region have put forward long-term plans, with special funds earmarked for universal coverage, mainly based on high-quality 700 MHz bands, for better broadband services (MBB) in rural areas. Modern station solutions, such as Huawei’s RuralLink, embrace the trends of green sites, simplified, and smooth evolution to 5G, and this will add new impetus to the acceleration of rural network deployment.

Let RuralLink expand throughout Latin America with a mobile connection that shines everywhere in every village.

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