Thursday, 14 January 2021

ITU Releases 'The Last-Mile Internet Connectivity Solutions Guide'



Despite the meteoric growth of the Internet and broadband connectivity, 3.7 billion people remain offline and are excluded from the direct benefits of the global digital economy, says a new publication just released by the International Telecommunication Union, The Last-Mile Internet Connectivity Solutions Guide: Sustainable connectivity options for unconnected sites. The press release said:

While there are multiple constraints on Internet access and use, the Solutions Guide addresses those posed by gaps in infrastructure coverage and service affordability. The low return on investment in network deployment in sparsely populated areas means that, in many developing countries, connectivity is largely limited to urban areas, leaving rural and remote areas totally cut off. 

Moreover, even when telecommunication networks are present, access to the Internet may be limited by prohibitively high prices, and lower-income individuals and families may be priced out of connectivity. 

Offline populations are particularly concentrated in least developed countries (LDCs), where according to latest ITU data, only 19 per cent of individuals were online in 2019. Regionally, in Africa and Asia-Pacific, less than half the population is online: 29 and 45 per cent respectively.

Written from the perspective of localities and users in areas without Internet access, the Solutions Guide contains tools, service interventions and policy solutions that can help policy-makers to select and customize appropriate solutions to extend Internet access to their localities, taking into account their unique characteristics. 

The guide is divided into four main steps that outline the planning and policy development phases of interventions to encourage infrastructure  deployments:

  1. Identify digitally unconnected and underserved regions;
  2. Review options from existing solutions;
  3. Select sustainable solutions that best fit the given situation;
  4. Implement interventions to extend sustainable connectivity service. 

The guide draws on lessons learned by governments, service providers, technology vendors, international organizations, multilateral development banks, bilateral donors, academia and others over the past 30 years. It is intended to be a living, active guide that is continuously updated and revised. 

In addition to the Solutions Guide, ITU is developing a range of resources to help Member States address last-mile connectivity challenges, including a database of case studies and interactive last-mile connectivity diagnostic and decision-making tools. It also offers capacity-building services and assistance on design, planning and implementation, including identifying unconnected areas and providing expert guidance on the selection of sustainable technical, financial and regulatory solutions. 

The PDF is available here. You can find the database and other information here.

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Thursday, 7 January 2021

TIP Announces Total Site Solution (TSS) for Ultra-Rural Network Deployments

Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and its members have developed a Total Site Solution (TSS), an optimized, lean site configuration specifically adapted to ultra-rural environments. TIP announced the solution back in December. A clear idea can be obtained from the excellent video accompanying the announcement as follows:

The press release says:

Deploying reliable and high-speed networks to ultra-rural communities has long been one of the greatest challenges for the telecoms industry. The combination of lower population densities, lack of existing infrastructure, and availability of local expertise means that expanding networks into these areas has traditionally not been economically viable, leaving significant areas of the world unconnected. To help catalyze the industry to find a solution to this challenge, the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and its members have developed the Total Site Solution (TSS), an optimized, lean site configuration specifically adapted to ultra-rural environments.

The solution which incorporates a range of essential elements, including low-power RAN equipment, off-grid energy solutions and satellite backhaul links, has been created by a diverse group of technology partners, including vendors and local system integrators, who have built, tested, and validated each of the necessary elements and their interoperability, as well as their ability to work with TIM Brasil’s core network.

The first TSS use case targets greenfield deployments to off-grid populations of less than 5,000 people, looking to address mid to low amounts of data consumption, through a “Town Center Model” for 4G coverage and supporting VoLTE for voice service.

For the use case, TIM Brasil created the technical and business use case requirements in a Pilot Program. Initial lab trials were then conducted at TIP’s Community Lab in North Los Angeles, California, in collaboration with vendors BaiCells (RAN); Morningstar (power systems); and Gilat (satellite backhaul links) to evaluate the interoperability of the elements. After the validation in the labs, local system integrator partners WLLCTEL and Zurich/Amerinode created cost-optimized site designs tailored for ultra-rural environments. Two test sites were subsequently built to prove the design and to simplify the construction process of the sites, after which TIM Brasil conducted a field trial to test the effectiveness of the solution in preparation for market trials and commercial deployments.

TSS has now gone through TIP’s Rural Site Configuration PlugFest which has expanded the initial configuration to include additional RAN (Airspan, Parallel Wireless, VNL) and VSAT backhaul equipment vendors (including ST Engineering iDirect), and validated them against a comprehensive test plan. These proven configurations are now listed on TIP Exchange and PlugFest, making them available to all members for further trials of TSS in other areas of the world.

Next steps for the TSS project include:

  1. Sharing ultra-rural TSS test plans, site installation runbook, and RSC PlugFest summary with TIP community (linked on TSS website)
  2. Working with additional partners globally to launch the proven ultra-rural TSS configuration into networks, bringing more unconnected people online
  3. Working with ecosystem partners across the NaaS Solution Group to apply the proven TSS incubator model to develop additional NaaS use-cases
  4. Market trial with TIM Brasil in the first half of 2021

The TSS sub-site has documents and additional details here.

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