RuralStar: a Scenario-based Solution Resolves the Coverage Issue in Remote Areas

GSMA statistics show that more than 700 million people in the world remain unconnected. Most of these people live in remote areas and are in dire need of mobile communications.

Huawei has been committed to "Bring digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world". At the 2017 Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) held in London, Huawei launched RuralStar 2.0, an innovative rural network solution. This solution transforms microwave or satellite transmission in traditional rural network solutions into Relay Remote Node (RRN) wireless backhaul, towers into simple poles, and diesel generators into clean, green solar energy, reducing the cost by more than 50%. This solution also supports multiple RATs, multiple frequency bands, and multi-level cascading. RuralStar 2.0 allows a rural network to provide cost-effective mobile broadband services as well as traditional voice services in remote areas. RuralStar 2.0 will play a significant role in bridging the digital divide in emerging markets.

RuralStar has been commercially deployed in more than 20 countries, including Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, Thailand, Mexico, and Peru. This solution is suitable in many scenarios, including remote mountainous areas, islands, highways, urban villages, and emergency communication scenarios. These scenarios involve long distances and complex terrains, which lead to the following long-enduring construction conundrums for mobile communications infrastructure: high construction costs, lack of stable power supply, and long construction periods. RuralStar features RRN wireless backhaul, green energy, easy installation, and helps operators provide coverage in remote areas.

Remote Villages

Afryea is a teacher in a remote village in Ghana. This village is 20 km away from the nearest base station and cannot receive any signals. No base station has been deployed in the village because of a lack of stable power supply and optical fibers, and relatively small population. Afryea, who had got used to social applications when she studied in a city, was bothered by the fact that the village had no network access. Since Huawei deployed a base station on a wooden pole, the problem was quickly resolved. Now Afryea can use WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends again.

Tobolo is a remote village in Nigeria and is 23 km from the nearest macro base station. In order to make a call, villagers have to drive their motorcycles several kilometers to find signals. On the day when a pilot RuralStar site was put into commercial use, villagers formed a long queue to subscribe to network services. The volume of traffic rapidly increased within only two weeks to more than the operator expected. It is estimated that the investment can be recouped within 2.3 years.

Remote Mountains

Zhesidengcun village is home to the Yi people located in the Daliang Mountain of Sichuan, China. This village is a typical example of communities living in remote mountainous areas. Huawei worked closely with the operator to deploy RuralStar at the mountain peak, providing coverage across the entire village and along all roads to the town. RuralStar, which features deployment on simple poles and RRN wireless backhaul, allows for flexible deployment on the mountain top, eliminates the need for deploying 10 km optical fibers, and reduces the deployment period from three months to only one week. Breathtaking landscapes and local customs in the village can attract more tourists through 4G networks. Also, migrant workers do not need to worry about network access when they return to the village.


Xiaoqushan Island is a small island in Zhoushan, Zhejiang, China. Despite its diminutive size, this island boasts abundant sandstones and ores. Hundreds of quarrymen and their families live and work there. Mobile communications is a very important factor to stay in touch with the outside world for them. However, no base station has ever been deployed on the island because of the small population, strong sea winds, and frequent rainfalls, which can cause severe microwave fading. RuralStar is now deployed on the island. A base station on Daqushan Island (7 km away), functions as the DeNB. After the deployment of RuralStar, local residents such as young people on the island can play mobile games, and also driver parents can enjoy video chats with their children. RuralStar significantly improves lives of all inhabitants on the island.

Gobi Desert

Deep in the Gobi Desert in Aksu, Xinjiang, the oil exploration team known as the "treasure hunter" tends to spend a few months there before oil is drilled out. Their camps normally are more than 30 kilometers away from the nearest base station, with communications signals severely blocked by undulating mountains in between. The oil hunters used to either make expensive satellite phone calls or drive to the nearest county (more than 10 kilometers away) to find signals. Communicating with the outside world was very troublesome. Given the specific conditions in Gobi, China Unicom Xingjiang (Aksu) adopted Huawei's RuralStar solution to provide 3G/4G coverage for the oil exploration camp and its surrounding areas. This solution replaces the fiber optic cable transmission with LTE wireless backhaul. It uses the host base station located over 20 kilometers away to provide backhaul transmission, allowing signals perfectly to bypass the hilly terrains. In addition, the solution also exploits solar energy and poles rather than towers. Even in the cloudy season, the base station can still work more than 40 hours.


Most highways are in remote areas across vast mountain ranges. Coverage along high-speed railways is often not contiguous. Ni'ancun village is a small village along a highway in Langfang, China. The coverage is present, but below today's standards. However, base stations cannot be deployed due to microwave transmission instability caused by adverse weather conditions, such as frequent winds, sandstorms, thunderstorms, hail, and other unfavorable environmental factors. The RRN solution resolves the transmission issue for the entire village. This solution ensures stable network performance, improves the coverage by more than 20%, and delivers a downlink rate of up to 9.8 Mbit/s using 5 MHz bandwidth.

Urban Villages

Zhangyingcun village is an urban area in Xiangyang, Hubei, China. The inter-building distance is small, and wireless signals experience difficulties in penetrating such architectures. Poor network quality has a large impact on small commodity trading in the village. Children in the village have been known to not want to return home because of poor networks. Base station deployment in the village was difficult since existing optical fibers were damaged and digging trenches to install new optical fibers can be quite time consuming. RuralStar replaces optical fiber backhaul with RRN wireless backhaul to provide intensive coverage throughout the entire village.

Emergency Communication

Every year, many regions suffer from natural geological disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Reliable and fast emergency communication solutions can help to save many lives. However, base station deployment for emergency communication in remote areas encounters the challenges of unavailable transmission resources, insufficient bandwidth, and long deployment periods. In 2018, Hubei Unicom China partnered with Huawei to deploy the first RRN-wireless-backhaul emergency base stations for joint flood prevention drills in three provinces across central China. This solution outperforms traditional methods and is highly respected throughout the whole industry. This solution uses simple poles and features easy transportation and quick installation. RRN wireless backhaul (targeting the main beam of the cell served by the DeNB) only requires three hours to deploy and activate, while microwave transmission requires point-to-point, precise alignment. The success of the drills demonstrates that RRN wireless backhaul is a very capable and reliable, new solution to emergency-based communications.

Satellite Replacement

Traditional rural network solutions use satellite transmission in remote villages, where microwave transmission is difficult to deploy. However, satellite transmission has many disadvantages, such as small capacity, long latency, and poor anti-interference capability. Satellite communication relies highly on the weather and is interrupted during sun transits or eclipses. Most important of all, the cost of satellite transmission is high. In Peru, the monthly rental cost for 1 MHz bandwidth of satellite transmission reaches USD 100. If 10 MHz bandwidth is required, the annual rental cost for one site is USD 12,000, not to mention that there are 3000 satellite sites in Peru. RRN wireless backhaul eliminates the cost of renting transmission resources and reduces the OPEX by up to 76%. It also improves the user rate by 3.3 times and reduces the delay by 90% compared with satellite transmission.

Repeater Replacement

Repeaters have a simpler structure, lower costs, and are easier to install than traditional base stations. However, large-scale deployment of repeaters leads to the following issues: severe interference, limited coverage radius, small capacity, and difficult maintenance. As a result, China Unicom opted to avoid deploying repeaters. Repeaters deployed in Beining have been migrated. However, a large number of repeaters still exist on the live network. In contrast with repeaters, RuralStar features improved communication quality and a longer coverage distance, supports smooth inter-RAT evolution, and is easy to maintain. In Thailand, RuralStar has replaced repeaters and are effectively used to help provide coverage in many coastal villages.

Huawei has and will always be dedicated to connecting the unconnected and using innovative solutions and healthy business models to help promote mobile broadband in emerging markets. Huawei promises to continually work towards improving the quality of digital lives in every corner around the globe.

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: