Over 4B people around the world live in unconnected rural communities – that’s nearly 40% of the world’s population! But even with so many people living without reliable broadband access, global operators are doing little to address this challenge. That’s because the process of building and maintaining rural networks is plagued with high costs and complexity; in fact, a global survey of service providers found that 87% of operators believe costs and complexity of providing backhaul, installation/maintenance, and cost of base stations to be the biggest challenges for rural coverage. But in the modern world of everything-digital, providing broadband coverage is essential, even in these rural areas. The need for dependable connectivity is even supported by the UN who declared that reliable Internet access should be a basic human right. Couple this with an estimated $163B opportunity in rural markets and it’s clear to see that the industry is hungry for a solution that can solve these challenges.

To connect the unconnected, Parallel Wireless created a cost-effective, low-power, multi-technology solution that uses low-cost components for hardware while enabling flexible backhaul (including cost-effective wireless mesh). This globally proven solution will not only change the economics of bringing wireless coverage, but will also eliminate the majority of deployment challenges by enabling flexible backhaul and easy installation and maintenance through automation. This reduces cost and complexity of providing backhaul while also reducing hardware investments. The low-power design along with self-optimization, self-healing features then reduces OPEX via reduced maintenance and power costs. By eliminating the digital divide, it will allow economic growth and enable a further connected world today and tomorrow.

The small cell based vRAN solution meets the requirements of rural and remote environments better than conventional approaches and makes connecting the unconnected feasible for operators by innovating the RAN on several fronts:

1. Reducing the initial CAPEX investment to enter a new market or area. This is enabled by (1) low power consumption (uses less than a MacBook laptop running on full CPU), (2) small form factor that reduces site rental costs, and (3) easy and instant installation since this solution can be installed by anyone and deployment times are reduced from months to weeks.

2. Using any available backhaul in remote areas. Traditionally, bringing backhaul to rural sites took a long time and required substantial upfront investment since delivering the highest speed possible required very expensive backhaul fiber. Parallel Wireless unique mesh backhaul capability removes the need to lay out expensive fiber. The nodes can also daisy chain this mesh network even further, bringing low-cost wireless broadband to even a remote community of one.

3. Reducing on-going OPEX costs in remote environments. The network orchestrator piece of the solution accelerates configuration of the nodes and the process doesn’t require any planning applications. It also reduces maintenance costs with self-optimization capabilities that eliminate the need to send engineers to remote sites for optimization and repair.

4.Delivering lower costs per subscriber by targeting small concentrated pockets of users using MEC, content caching, and local breakout. By creating an open ecosystem of vendors, operators, government entities, and local businesses, this solution can also help to enable new use cases in rural areas that will also help to create additional revenue.

So how does this benefit rural customers? End-users in remote areas can now enjoy all the benefits of wireless connectivity such as streaming high quality videos, accessing mobile banking, or using it for eLearning and accessing educational materials. Activities such as these will help to improve daily life in rural communities as citizens now have access to online tools and functions that the rest of us take for granted. The user experience is also optimized as SON mitigates traffic interference in real-time to deliver a great experience. The rural wireless network itself will also benefit from hands-free network maintenance since all radio resources are then self-optimized in real-time.

While many industry players are reluctant to enter rural markets, Parallel Wireless is eager to bridge the digital divide, having deployed or trialed this solution on five continents. This solution has also been selected by leading operators including EE/BT in the UK and most recently by Telefonica to provide rural connectivity in LatAm markets.

Wireless services enabled by Parallel Wireless’ technology provides rural communities around the world with reliable 3G/4G broadband service and voice. By eliminating the need for large masts or cabling, service providers can deliver wireless connectivity to untapped markets quickly and economically. This innovative architecture will play a bigger part in helping operators better balance their roll-out costs with their revenue potential as we migrate forward into 5G. Since the main objective for the roll-out of 5G is to better people’s lives via improved connectivity, this solution is a crucial first step in enabling the 5G vision.