Wednesday 22 November 2023

Huawei's RuralLink Solution Proposes to 'Connect the Unconnected'

It's been five years since we first wrote about Huawei's rural network solution. RuralStar was all rage back in 2018 and then the updated RuralStar 3.0 in 2020. Since then, Huawei has been working on updated architecture of RuralLink.

At MWC 2023, RuralLink won GSMA's 'Best Mobile Innovation for Emerging Markets' GLOMO Award. The press release at the RuralLink launch at the Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2022 (MBBF2022) provided some insights into the solution. The following is from the press release

Huawei's RuralLink solution uses unique innovative technologies to solve the difficulties associated with communications. In the areas where fiber is difficult and costly to deploy, thanks to unique microwave fronthaul capabilities, RuralLink uses microwave to replace optical fibers to extend RRUs far away, which reduces network construction costs. By co-using BBU with existing macro site, RuralLink does not require a BBU to be deployed, which helps reduce site power consumption. By allowing a site to operate with just four to five solar panels, RuralLink is also easily adaptable to the areas that lack stable mains supplies. The solution features a simplified design that enables all devices to be mounted on to a pole, and its site deployment does not require fencing or concrete construction. As such, site construction is so easy in fact that it be completed in just three days. RuralLink supports 2G to 5G services, laying the foundation for network experience upgrade.

RuralLink has already been deployed by China Unicom Inner Mongolia in rural areas. This operator has seen significant improvement in the proportion of areas with good coverage and notable increase in area traffic and average user-perceived speeds. While fulfilling the communication needs of the local people, the RuralLink site deployment also lays a solid foundation for the development of local e-commerce, tourism, and smart agriculture.

A recent press release highlighted that RuralLink is being used to boost rural network coverage and promote digital inclusion in Brazil.

Huawei supported Brazil’s leading telecommunications operator, to successfully complete the commercial use of the RuralLink solution. This solution utilizes a “1 RRU + 1 antenna” to form three LTE sectors, simplifying site deployment with the aim of improving wireless network coverage in rural areas and providing broader internet access.

RuralLink utilizes innovative three-sector shaping technology, requiring only one antenna and one RRU to form three sectors. Compared to traditional three-sector macro site solutions, this solution reduces 60% of devices on the tower, 50% of power consumption, and 50% of supporting devices, resulting in a 60% cost saving from end to end. Additionally, the simplified architecture enables faster TTM (time to market) and allows one person to complete site deployment and activation in one day, achieving good signal coverage within a range of 3.5 km.

The following video explains the RuralLink solution and deployment scenario:

I am looking forward to seeing an updated solution at MWC 2024.

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