Innovation Closes the Rural Connectivity Gap
The recent report by the GSMA Connected Society Programme, “Closing the Coverage Gap: How Innovation Can Drive Rural Connectivity” explores a variety of solutions leveraging innovation to reduce mobile broadband deployment costs for the hardest to reach. While billions of people worldwide enjoy the enormous value of mobile broadband connectivity, 750 million people across remote and rural regions are outside the footprint of a mobile broadband network, and another 3 billion live within reach of a network but are not yet mobile Internet users. Recognizing that connectivity develops value, drives achievement of U.N.-defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and economic targets, the mobile industry is committed to enabling digital inclusion and closing the rural connectivity gap.
As the barriers to remote and rural connectivity are less technical and more economic, the report focuses on leveraging innovation to drive down mobile broadband deployment costs. Looking to identify the priority areas for innovation that have the greatest potential to drive comprehensive cost or efficiency savings, the report focuses on base stations, backhaul and energy supply and storage, as well as exploring a range of innovative business models and creative approaches to collaboration and partnerships.
Cell site power is one of the most critical issues facing rural connectivity. According to the GSMA report, half of Sub-Saharan Africa and a third of Southeast Asia does not have access to power; for these operators, power supply and storage is the largest capital and operational expense. Lacking reliable grid connectivity, operators have traditionally deployed expensive and theft-prone diesel generators for off-grid primary and backup power. The report notes that the transition to renewable energy is underway and explores several promising innovations in renewable energy and fuel cell technologies, citing GenCell products alongside Nokia FusionGrid and PowiDian SAGES. To minimize energy waste and power use, operators are recommended to continue to diversify energy management and cost reduction strategies.
Providing mobile broadband connectivity to the hardest to reach will require substantive changes in network design, deployment and customer engagement. As leaders in developing and implementing innovation, operators are well-placed to make progress in achieving these objectives. Policymakers, regulators, investors, the international community and other stakeholders also have a key role to play in supporting efforts to close the coverage gap.
To read the full report, click here.
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