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Terrestrial wireless

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In rural China (PRC), farmers, small enterprise owners and other families are prospering thanks to greater access to the global information superhighway. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) supports regional cooperation initiatives in the Peoples Republic of China and other Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries, including projects supporting the creation of a telecommunications backbone connecting GMS countries, giving rural communities access to the worldwide web. (YouTube)


Cellular (Mobile) 
With cellular telephony overtaking fixed-line services in many countries, such as Cambodia, and the Philippines, projects are springing up that connect remote villages to the immense information resources of the Internet directly through a cell phone or through a computer with a cellular modem. However, cellular access can be quite costly and bandwidth is limited.

Multi-Access Radio 
Time division multiple access (TDMA) radio systems are a means of providing wireless rural telephony. They typically have 30 to 60 trunks and can accommodate 500 to 1,000 subscribers. Their range can be extended using multiple repeaters. Alternatively there are wireless solutions that use radio signals. Radio signals can deliver broadband data over tens of kilometres. Local ‘nodes’ or ‘base stations’ transmit and receive data to the network and lines of site are required between nodes. These solutions have a high initial capital cost but low running costs compared with leased lines.

Short range cordless extensions can provide the link from wireless outstations to subscriber premises; the DECT (Digital European Cordless Telephone) technology standard can also allow the base station to act as a wireless PBX and further reduce cost. For example, DECT has been used in South Africa to provide links to rural pay telephones and telecentres. However, DECT has very limited bandwidth, so that it is not suitable for accessing the World Wide Web.

Third-generation mobile services (3G)
Mostly used in industrialized countries. In the future, these networks may become widespread in the developing world. They offer greatly increased bandwidth over existing networks, and allow for fast Internet access to handheld devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), and small personal computers. However, this solution can still be costly, with Internet access prices higher than with other solutions. This technology may soon become more affordable as new 4G (fourth generation) technology becomes more widespread.

Wireless local loop
Wireless local loop (WLL) systems can be used to extend local telephone services to rural schools without laying cable or copper wire. Now that costs have now declined, it is competitive with copper. Wireless is faster to set up than extending wire or cable. It also has a lower ratio of fixed to incremental costs than copper, making it easy to add more customers and serve transient populations. Wireless is also less vulnerable than copper wire or cable to accidental damage or vandalism. 

Wi-Fi rapidly gained in popularity in developing countries for its low cost, speed to set up and flexibility. Wi-Fi, an abbreviation for Wireless Fidelity, operates on an unregulated band of radio spectrum designated 802.11. This is an unlicensed band of spectrum that is shared and available for use by anyone. Up to now it was most commonly used for personal appliances, such as a microwave oven or a cordless home phone, and for specialized purposes such as the radar "gun" used by law enforcement to read the speed of a moving vehicle. 

Wi-Fi is open-everything: open standards, open spectrum, open source software, open hardware. Anyone can build a Wi-Fi device – it is very low cost to buy and deploys a high-speed wireless internet network. 

A typical Wi-Fi network uses a hub-and-spoke design. The hub is a location that is high up, at the top of a building, hill, or tower, where it can be seen visually from many locations. At the hub, the operator of the network installs a sector array of antennas, which can be easily and cheaply bought at stores. Since the whole system is open and standardized, you can build it from the ground up, instead of the sky down and add more nodes as interest and money allows. A single WiFi access point can provide service to thousands of users, and at a much lower individual cost. 

WiFi networks are basically local-loop networks providing last-mile connectivity. As an example, local schools with access to broadband can control the dissemination of their own local initiatives. Students can practice all media forms and processes through actual hands-on experience. Local television and radio stations can distribute, even produce, unique media content. 

WiFi is simply very easy, and costs very little to deploy. There are now many cities with WiFi networks that offer free Internet access, and the numbers are growing rapidly. Technology and high investment costs no longer offer a reasonable excuse for the digital divide. In fact, thanks to continuing advances in WiFi technology, the digital divide may now be better described as an “advocacy divide”.

Related links

Guide to wireless installation
The popularity of wireless networking has caused equipment costs to continually plummet, while equipment capabilities continue to increase. By applying this technology in areas that are badly in need of critical communications infrastructure, more people can be brought online than ever before, in less time, for very little cost. The Wireless Networking in the Developing World (WNDW) team hope to not only convince you that this is possible, but also show how we have made such networks work, and to give you the information and tools you need to start a network project in your local community. To this end, they have created a freely available and comprehensive online guide to wireless installation for developing nations. The publication can be downloaded in PDF files from their website. Alternatively, visitors to their site can purchase a print version of the book.

Being Wireless
With the possibility to reach places that do not have sufficient commercial value to justify classic infrastructure, the viral nature of unlicensed telecommunications becomes a major force of human development, transforming everything from education to entertainment. The author here uses the elegant extended metaphor of lily-pads unfurling one by one to cover a pond to illustrate how micro-operators can, one by one, be woven into a global fabric of broadband connectivity. Messages and information can then hop between terminals, as frogs between lily pads.

Wireless in Local Loop — Some Fundamentals
The design of a WLL system requires understanding of some fundamentals concerning the Access Network and its connectivity to the backbone network as well as the traffic requirement for a voice and Internet connection. This paper provides all you need to know about the more technical side of things.