Rural Wireless Communication Strategies For Developing Countries

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Nov 24, 2013 (3 years and 8 months ago)

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Rural Wireless Communication Strategies

For Developing Countries


Nepal’s Strategy for Rural Telecommunications


The case study for Nepal presented here details the latest thinking of Nepal Telecommunications
Corporation (NTC) with regard to the technology

choices for the future development of rural
wireless communications in Nepal. The report explains the reasons for NTC’s decision to deploy
wireless local loop and VSATs in the future instead of conventional multi
-
access radio or
GMPCS.


1. Strategy for r
ural development


In the late 1980’s, an ITU expert was appointed to evaluate the technology and economics of
providing at least one telephone to all of the Village Development Committees (VDCs) of the
kingdom. The expert concluded that the primary option

was the digital multi
-
access radio
telephone system (MARTS) combined with single
-
channel subscriber radio telephone system
(SRTS) operating on the VHF band. In the case of difficult terrain, for which MARTS and VHF
-
band SRTS was not economically feasible,

conventional HF radio communication links were
suggested.


During the implementation period, however, only the so
-
called Illaka Service Centers (ISC),
ranging from 9 to 17 in each district, were ultimately chosen to be served by MARTS.
Accordingly 23 MAR
TS were implemented and about 600 terminal stations were installed. The
numbers of subscribers served or to be served by the system is about 4500. However, since the
procurement of spare parts for MARTS began to be a problem, the procured systems could not

be
used as planned and many components from the planned systems had to be used as spares. The
initial idea of serving about 200 remote areas by HF links was later modified in favor of satellite
-
based systems.


With the installation and operation of MARTS

on a fairly large scale (about 70 districts are
covered by MARTS), NTC gained a good deal of practical experience. Based on this experience
and a study by the Rural Planning Division of NTC under the DGM Rural Planning, NTC has
changed its strategy as fol
lows:


1.

Deploy GSM
-
based or CDMA (IS
-
95)
-
based WLL in the central region (CR), eastern region
(ER), western region (WR), and mid & far western region (MFWR).

2.

Deploy satellite
-
based VSAT terminals in the mountain region (MR).


The reasons for abandoning the

idea of MARTS in favor of WLL can be enumerated as follows:


1.

NTC's experience with the MARTS revealed that the traffic figures recommended by
manufacturers were inadequate in the case of rural Nepal. The average traffic per
subscriber has been more than 0
.15 erlang and NTC is facing a colossal problem of
congestion. The average traffic per PCO is around 0.30 and the percentage of PCO’s
linked to MARTS is quite high.

2.

Available products cannot accommodate more than 120 trunks and 1000 customer
connections w
ith a traffic of 0.1 erlang /subscriber. With traffic of 0.3 erlang/line (750
calls/month), no more than 330 customers can be accommodated in a MARTS of 120
trunks.


2

3.

With a distance of more than 5 km between VDCs, a single terminal cannot be used to
offer s
ervice in more than one VDC. Wireline connections between VDCs are ruled out.
Either one terminal per VDC should be adopted (causing a significant increase in costs
compared to VSAT terminals and thereby losing its advantage) or a local access
technology s
uch as DECT or PHS together with MARTS should be adopted.

4.

Trombone trunks (two trunk circuits to provide a single connection) necessary to
establish a link between two different VDC's of the same network further reduce the total
traffic capability.

5.

MART s
ystems are 'spectrum hungry'.

6.

Since the MARTS subscriber terminals are connected via cable, the drawing of cables
and dropwires has been quite bizarre, leading to significant maintenance problems.

A number of satellite systems such as Inmarsat, Iridium, an
d Globalstar can offer immediate
service to anyone, anytime, anywhere. However, the biggest obstacle for application in Nepal is
the very high tariff rate. Rural subscribers cannot be made to pay a very high charge and therefore
the application of these sy
stems is deemed prohibitive, at least for the present. NTC has already
been operating VSATs in a few remote places and the operation has been satisfactory. Therefore,
VSAT has been deemed an appropriate choice for the MR's.


A wireless local loop (WLL) net
work for the mid & far western development region is being
planned. The network will serve about 450 VDCs in 17 districts, including 11 hilly, 5 Terai and 1
mountain district, by the year 2002. The table in Annex 1 lists the districts, the zones they lie i
n,
the total number of VDCs in the districts, and the number of VDCs that need to be served by the
WLL network. The project area covers over 32,000 sq. km and serves over four million people.



2. Cost estimates for different systems


The cost estimates of

different systems based on the study of NTC’s Rural Planning Division
have been listed below:



NTC Cost Estimates for Rural Technologies (in US$)


SN

Technology

Minimum
Network
Size in No
of Lines

Costs in US$

Remarks

Per Site

Per Line

Incremental
Co
st Per Line

1

Rural Exchange

150

265,259

1,768

700


2

MARTS with
DECT/PHS WLL

500

11,953

2,737

1,500

$500 for
subscriber
solar power

3

CDMA WLL

5,000

825,000

2,805

1,500

$700 for
subscriber
solar power

4

DECT/PHS

1,000

56,200

1,124

800

For Urban
area
s only

5

VSAT

1,000

15,000

7,500

2,000

Space
segment cost
high



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3. Economic viability of rural telephony


It is universally accepted that rural telecommunications is not a profitable proposition and yet it is
the obligation of all the governments to prov
ide it. In Nepal, most of the rural areas being served
are not incurring a large loss, since the lines are used by many individuals and every locality
served has at least one public call office.


The traffic from the call offices may be as high as 0.3 erl
angs and our studies have shown that
rural areas are even cross
-
subsidizing the urban subscribers because the calls from many urban
subscribers are low. One of the main reasons for low calls from a high percent of urban
subscribers is the low monthly renta
l, due to which many people acquire more lines than they
need simply for the reliability of service.


Since the cost of providing rural service is more than that of providing service to urban areas, the
high revenue generated by rural subscribers has some
what compensated for the higher
investment. However, the areas left have less demand for telephone service and the investment
needed to provide them with service is expected to be higher. Therefore the provision of telecom
service to the remaining areas is

not forecast to be economically viable without substantial
subsidy from the government.


In conclusion, every country has its unique characteristics regarding the applicability of different
rural systems available on the market. NTC has tried to implement

MARTS on a relatively large
scale in rural areas and the experience has suggested to us that we may have to change our
original strategy. The inputs from the study groups may further provide inputs to formulate a
better strategy to serve our rural areas i
n the coming years.









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Annex 1


Nepal: VDCs to be covered by WLL Network

Name

Area
Code

Zone


Development
Region

No of
VDCs

VDCs to be
served by
this Project

Kalikot

087

Karnali


Mid Western

30

14

Hilly Districts






Rukum

086

Rapti


Mid Western

4
3

22

Rolpa

086

Rapti


Mid Western

51

21

Ryuthan

086

Rapti


Mid Western

49

25

Salyan

086

Rapti


Mid Western

47

32

Surkhet

083

Bheri


Mid Western

50

24

Jajarkot

089

Bheri


Mid Western

30

12

Dailekh

089

Bheri


Mid Western

55

25

Sub
-
total





325

161

D
oti

094

Seti


Far Western

50

15

Achham

097

Seti


Far Western

75

28

Baitadi

095

Mahakali


Far Western

62

26

Dadeldhura

096

Mahakali


Far Western

20

13




Sub
-
total


207

82




Hills Total


532

243

Terai Districts






Dang

082

Rapti


M
id Western

39

39

Banke

081

Bheri


Mid Western

46

46

Bardiya

084

Bheri


Mid Western

31

31




Sub
-
total


116

116

Kailai

091

Seti


Far Western

42

42

Kanchanpur

099

Seti


Far Western

19

19




Sub
-
total


61

61




Terai Total


177

177





Total




Grand Total

709



㐲4




Although Kalikot is a mountain district, the proposed system can cover its 14 VDCs
without additional BTS.