"Hey, I will not be visiting again in the near future. Hey, can you hear me? I said I will not be returning any time soon."
This is still a familiar conversation that we can commonly hear every day on Xiaoqushan Island, Daishan, Zhejiang, China. This island is the site of the largest sandstone and ore mine in China. Workers on the island rely on mobile phones to stay in touch with their friends and family. Although mobile phones have grown increasingly popular, the average network quality on and around the island is relatively poor. Local residents often need to yell to be heard by the person receiving the call. This is typically what we might have expected perhaps 15 years ago.
Besides islands like the Xiaoqushan Island, remote mountainous areas and densely populated urban villages also encounter challenges of insufficient network infrastructure, no mains, no transmission resources, and high costs of deploying traditional macro site infrastructure on towers. As a result, these areas often experience weak or perhaps even no coverage, which significantly affects people's lives and impedes economic development.
More than 30,000 administrative villages, islands, and scenic spots in China remain unconnected or have no access to mobile broadband networks. Why is rural network deployment so difficult? There are three crucial challenges: difficult site acquisition, difficult site construction, and high site deployment costs.
In traditional site deployment mode, deploying optical fibers is difficult and costly. Lack of a stable power supply also impedes base station deployment and operation. Huawei's RuralStar solution uses the "three transformations" to resolve the issues of poor infrastructure, no mains, and no transmission resources. The "three transformations" refer to transforming microwave or satellite transmission into wireless backhaul, towers into simple poles, and diesel generators into clean, green solar energy.
RuralStar significantly reduces the costs of network infrastructure deployment and maintenance. RuralStar allows operators to quickly deploy sites in remote areas. RuralStar eliminates optical fibers, which make sites more environmentally friendly and easier to deploy. More importantly, cost-effective RuralStar greatly encourages operators to further invest and achieve win-win development between the economy and people's lifestyles.
Xiaoqushan Island, Zhesideng Village, and Zhangying Village are typical RuralStar application scenarios among mountainous areas, islands, and urban villages.
Xiaoqushan Island is a major sandstone and ore mine located in Zhoushan, Zhejiang province. However, over the past few years, young migrant workers were often reluctant to work on the island. The major reason was that the island had no network access. The island has a small population. The cost of deploying submarine cables is high and is difficult to recoup. Frequent strong sea breezes and torrential rain cause severe microwave fading. Such an isolated island is in dire need of network access.
Lou Xiaozhong, the deputy manager of Zhoushan Unicom's construction and maintenance department, said, "The RRN wireless backhaul solution can be deployed within one to two days. This solution saves costs and does not require a large amount of infrastructure. Only RRN transmission modules need to be added to terminal ReBTSs. The LTE 2100 MHz band is used for backhaul on Xiaoqushan Island to provide stable network performance and achieve NLOS transmission, which allows for flexible site locations and easy site construction."
In 2018, Zhoushan Unicom and Huawei announced the successful deployment of RuralStar 2.0. A macro base station on Daqushan Island, which is 7 km away, functions as the DeNB, significantly improving the network quality on Xiaoqushan Island. Miners on the island can enjoy video chats with their families, read news, listen to music, and even play mobile games. This allows the local residents to enjoy their spare time in more diversified ways.
Zhesideng Village is located at the south of Xichang and is home to the Yi people. The steep terrain on Daliang Mountain makes the natural landscape unique but acts as a physical barrier between the village and modern society. No network access produces the domino effect. Villages lag behind the outside world, while outsiders are reluctant to journey to the village even if they have a reason to visit. Simply because there is no network access, Zhesideng Village is considered by many as an unimportant far-off destination on a long list of possible places to visit.
The sloping landscape makes traditional base station deployment difficult, leads to unstable mobile signals, and renders 4G network deployment virtually impossible. Chen Jun, the deputy general manager of China Mobile Liangshan, withstood mounting pressures over the past few years since this is far from an isolated incident and there are many places like Zhesideng Village in the region. China Mobile Liangshan uses the RRN wireless backhaul solution to deploy mountain top terminal ReBTSs in Zhesideng Village to receive signals from the DeNB. This solution helps to quickly provide 4G coverage across the entire scope of the village and along surrounding roads.
"Now the villagers can communicate through our network and enjoy video chats with their families living abroad. Unique scenic spots in the village can attract more tourists through mobile networks." said Chen Jun, who is proud that his work connects the village to the outside world and helps to invigorate the village's economy.
Technically speaking, Zhangying Village in Xiangyang, Hubei is not a remote area. This is one of the most densely populated urban villages in the new district of Fanxi. Many residents in the village are engaged in small commodity trading. However, poor mobile signals have always been a long-standing issue. This is because buildings in the village are densely deployed, and signals cannot penetrate buildings. With limited or no network access, young people either suffer or relocate, and the business of the local residents is also affected. Dense buildings make trench digging difficult. There is currently no solution to offering stable network signals.
Huang Hua, the deputy general manager of China Unicom Xiangyang, said, "The RRN wireless backhaul solution replaces the optical fiber backhaul solution, which avoids infrastructure construction such as digging trenches and burying cables, saves site construction costs, and speeds up site deployment." The new base station significantly improves network signals in the village. Thousands of villagers can now use 4G networks at home to listen to music, read news, and enjoy video chats. This enhances the quality of people's lives and has an overall positive effect on small commodity trading in the village.
The pilot RRN site in Zhangying Village creates a new pattern for providing intensive coverage in urban villages. This RRN wireless backhaul solution can be used to provide coverage in other urban villages or even remote rural areas and mountainous areas with blocked signals.
Modern society highly relies on communication networks. Islands, remote mountainous areas, and urban villages, which encounter many development bottlenecks, must not lag behind the outside world in the new era of mobile internet. Huawei's RuralStar is a promising solution that promotes social development and improves people's lives by building on digital economic corridors in underdeveloped regions in China or around the globe.
A fluent 4G network is not just about data transmission. 4G networking is all about interaction of information, the transfer of emotions, and new economic opportunities. The world will be a far better place if remote areas can be synchronized with the rest of the outside world.
On September 18th, we will be holding our second annual Global Site Forum in Singapore, with the theme of "Full Connectitivity, Optimal Experience, Win-Win Cooperation". This forum will also contribute to a smooth evolution of site, energy and antenna to 5G, and lend additional support for the creation of an all scenario indoor coverage digital system. Huawei will showcase its products and solutions at Marina Bay Sands Expo. For more information, please visit: https://www.huawei.com/minisite/globalsiteforum2018/en/index.html