The digital divide and rural connectivity, challenges in telecommunications beyond 5G

August 4, 2021

There are huge differences in access to communications around the world. While in large cities and populated areas the new 5G networks are a reality, in many rural areas they are still waiting for fiber optics and 4G networks. 

This digital divide is one of the great challenges facing communications companies today. It is important to note that 41% of the world’s population live in areas where access to broadband connections is not yet possible. Still, internet access is very important in these areas, as they are already isolated from large urban centers. 

Can 5G help narrow the digital divide?  

With the appearance of 5G, new frequencies are opened, such as high or millimeter frequencies and very low frequencies. These low frequencies are characterized by their long range but lower performance. They are a great opportunity to offer 5G connection in rural areas that lack high-speed internet access. 

For example, installing a 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) could provide high-speed access (600 Mbps) to an entire rural area that is not broadband wired. This solution simplifies deployment tasks and speeds up the availability of necessary connectivity, also in rural areas. 

O-RAN Alliance   

The O-RAN alliance consists of the opening of smart radio networks so that new operators can enter the market and offer their services. The O-RAN (Open Radio Access Network) network architecture integrates software solutions with the hardware used for radio network interconnections, reducing the costs of the new 5G networks and improving their versatility and efficiency. 

In addition to promoting competition, increasing the quality of services and reducing their cost, this new appearance of operators will allow 5G services to be extended and taken to places where large companies do not currently offer their services.  

Specific technology for rural areas  

India proposed a change in the 5G standards to facilitate access in rural areas to this type of network. The International Telecommunication Union (ITUapproved the technology known as 5Gi in November 2020. This new 5G standard significantly improves the coverage and reach of these networks, presenting itself as the best alternative to end the digital divide suffered by rural areas. 

5G technology characteristics and capabilities can solve many of the problems that are produced by the digital divide in many regions worldwide. Many countries and organizations are working to improve digital inclusion, and new 5G networks are presented as a great solution to achieve this. 

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