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Developing Countries Moving Towards Broadband

There has been considerable discussion over the last few years about the spectacular growth in mobile communications. Within a rather short period of time around five billion people have been connected, and growth continues unabated. Villages in the poorer regions of the world are provided with a basic level of connectivity, and within a decade the majority of people globally will benefit in one way or another from these developments.

The 2G and 3G networks and other telecommunications infrastructure such as satellites, fixed wireless technologies and fixed networks, linked to smart phones and other smart devices, can be used to provide basic internet services. However, it is important to acknowledge the affordability of these services. Full-blown 4G broadband access and other devices such as PCs would still be out of reach of most people in the developing world for some time to come.

However, this basic ‘always on’ facility will lead to providing a range of extra services by healthcare, education and other organisation to the social and economic benefit of the local people. The more community-based social structures in these countries will enable the spread of these applications significantly further than in developed countries, where the social structure is more focussed on the individual.

These basic principles need to be taken into account when developing infrastructure. In order to be successful, a far more incremental and basic development needs to be fostered, with no gold-plated, one-off prestige projects.

Distributing small access points or basestations with radioplanning is far more expensive than using macro-cells. Only edge (pico- and femto-) cells and WiFi-cells are affordable because they are self-installed by the end-users and hooked up to a broadband line. This means there is a trade-off between radioplanning (organised coverage which may not be affordable), and unplanned coverage.

Key local facilities (eg, schools or public buildings) can be linked point-to-point to the basestation tower and backhauled together with the datastreams from the tower, whether that is done by high-bandwidth microwave or by pulling Fibre-to-the-Tower). The new deployment plans of rural broadband services to people in remote areas of Australia, New Zealand and the USA would provide good examples.

An affordable business proposition would be for more gradual infrastructure development to ensure that 2/3/4G datatraffic could provide for the aggregated traffic volume that would make FttT/1GbE microwave backhaul a method to get high-bandwidth close to communities.

Access via local point-to-point links hooked into a router/aggregator at the tower site at affordable rates to high-bandwidth backhauls, or by making those backhauls high-bandwidth through investment subsidies, are ways to tackle many of the issues around how to get broadband into undeveloped, unserved or underserved regions.

One of the main problems in any broadband deployment around the globe is overly-expensive backhaul, or with regulatory approved over-expensive leased line rates such as in the USA. This may prevent locally-focused ISPs from florishing, even when they have the ability to wire up the rural village or choose to deploy some local microwave/WLL technology themselves.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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