With 60% of the African population residing in rural areas, there is an enormous opportunity to connect people in rural communities and villages. In Morocco, a third of the population lives in rural areas, and there is still a need to connect more communities to move the country onto the cutting edge of digital technology and in support of the National Broadband Plan, which aims to provide the entire population with fixed or mobile broadband by the end of 2022.
Reducing the cost of rural connectivity
When it comes to rural connectivity, one of the biggest obstacles is the associated cost. At Nokia, we create the technology for the world to act together, and that is why we have developed these solutions that lower operators’ total cost of ownership so that they can get a better return on investment (ROI) on rural connectivity. As more operators take advantage of these solutions to connect rural communities, they will also benefit from driving down their costs.
There are several layers of technology involved in connectivity. The technology that is required from a rural connectivity perspective is largely focused around 2G, 3G, and 4G and can be evolved smoothly to 5G thanks to the introduction of lean and compact baseband and RF in the Nokia portfolio. The solution can work across those technologies at the lowest power consumption level. That is one element of the cost of connectivity that we are addressing through our new technologies. Another challenge lies in how you build the power system around the solution to improve the overall TCO.
The Nokia rural solution relies on unique innovative breakthroughs such as 3 sectors RF modules and native compact outdoor baseband that deliver the leanest solution (2G to 5G) in the market in terms of weight and footprint. Moreover, Nokia’s solution is enabled with robust security measures to ensure service continuity and protect the assets of service providers.
Off-grid power solutions for rural connectivity
We have developed off-grid power solutions that reduce the total consumption by using the latest batteries and solar technologies to drive down the cost for the operator and improve their ROI. Off-grid power solutions for rural connectivity in Africa will become a game changer by lowering the cost of building rural infrastructure and ensuring that operators can maximize their return on investment, as well as overcoming challenges around electrification. Aside from the radio aspect, the solution includes non-line-of-sight wireless backhaul technology rather than satellite and then we look at how we’re going to use efficiency, across managing the OPEX better through using batteries, solar and off-grid solutions, and then ultimately allowing the operator to manage the radio part as well as the off-grid part through a remote management system, allowing us to provide one comprehensive solution to operators looking at investing in rural connectivity.
Universal Services Fund (USF) agreements will also continue to play a fundamental role across the continent as countries race to connect the unconnected and ensure that no one gets left behind while continuing to digitalize and embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and beyond.
Beyond rural connectivity
The rural solutions are a part of an extensive portfolio Nokia offers, and we collaborate closely with all major operators and government initiatives in Africa that bridge the digital divide. The reason why we are focusing on rural Africa is that we believe this gives the first right of connectivity to people. There is also a massive shift to urbanization on the continent, therefore alongside the rural solutions, we also focus on building more extensive 4G coverage and evolving that to 5G as well. Nokia has been a collaborator with operators across Africa for special events where we are able to optimize networks to be high performing and resilient to the demand; a recent example would be the Africa cup in Cameroun.
Collaboration between industry, regulators, and other players will, however, be key in ensuring that the African continent accelerates transformation and drives digital inclusion for all.
Danial Mausoof is Head of Mobile Networks Sales and Solutioning for the Middle East and Africa at Nokia (www.Nokia.com).