As over four billion people are still offline and the rate of new Internet users has begun to drop, there exists a real fear that the benefits of broadband Internet may never reach the majority of the world’s population. The problem is most severe in many emerging economies with hundreds of millions still out of reach of a signal and often more than two thirds of citizens offline. The reasons are complex, yet even in developed economies, more than 15% of citizens are still offline. Why? Huawei’s recent white paper, Digital Enablement: Bridging the Digital Divide to Connect People and Society, identified four main reasons, including:
- Availability: Network access is complex as it requires a high quality network connection, a smart device, and relevant applications or services; and all three must be available and affordable for consumers, especially those of lower-incomes.
- Affordability: Network connections, smart devices, and relevant applications and services must be available and affordable for consumers, especially those of lowerincomes.
- Attitude: Many people are not aware of the benefits of broadband Internet, or are unaware of its full potential,while others may be afraid of using it.
- Ability: Using the Internet can also be challenging: Some consumers lack the physical ability needed to use a device, are illiterate and unable to read text, or cannot create content or use ICT on a daily basis.
Our network solutions seek to reduce the total costs for carriers to provide high-speed network connectivity and enable new business models. This means carriers can continue to invest in building networks and providing services to users. We provide a full range of solutions including international submarine networks, backhaul networks, backbone networks, fixed networks, and mobile networks, as well as the software that enables them all. This includes developing:
In March 2015, Huawei announced the commercialization of the Wireless to the X (WTTx) broadband access solution using LTE-TDD technology. Using only mobile technologies, WTTx provides an alternative to a home-based fixed broadband connection at much lower costs (up to 80% less) and much faster deployment (up to 90%). The WTTx solution (with a customized terminal) can be used inside or outside the home to turn a mobile signal into a Wi-Fi signal. Its multi-antenna technology allows a fast mobile broadband network to be accessed across a greater coverage radius.
WTTx can enable fast broadband at lower costs for individual users who can access it using any low-cost Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone, and connection costs can be shared by all household users. WTTx is also an excellent solution for SMEs that would otherwise need a fixed broadband solution which would be more expensive and slower to roll out.
Broadband penetration rates in Sri Lanka are low, even compared to other South Asian countries. Though mobile phone usage is fairly high, ITU estimates that only 25.8% of the population had access to the Internet at the end of 2014.
In Sri Lanka, the telecom company Dialog began to deploy WTTx in 2013 and rapidly expanded it in 2015 with 500 new base stations reaching numerous households, 80% of which had never accessed broadband before. After the initial connection fee of US$27, the service costs as little as US$4 per month for 5 GB of data and a voice line. As few users possess a 4G device in Sri Lanka, people can access broadband using any Wi-Fi-enabled device,including more prevalent 3G devices, personal computers, and tablets.
Mexico Conectado is a federal government program rolled out by the Ministry of Communication and Transportation,which aims to guarantee citizens’ constitutional right to Internet access. The program, implemented in coordination with state and municipal governments, offers free Internet
access in public places such as schools, hospitals, universities,governmental offices, and parks. In many areas, it is expected to be a primary means for millions of Mexicans to access the Internet free of charge. The program will allow people to access knowledge via the Internet, receive better education and healthcare remotely, improve the quality of public services, and bridge the digital divide.
With our ICT expertise, Huawei has worked with the Mexican government to give more people access to stable, fast, and secure networks. We have so far provided equipment for 30,000 Internet hotspots (sites) for this program. We have also provided a safe, reliable, scalable, and easy-to-manage solution which can reduce network construction and maintenance costs.
- Each site includes two access points (Wi-Fi routers), which provide stable and high-performance wireless Internet access in both indoor and outdoor locations.
- Mexican users can go through authentication via the next-generation firewall deployed at each site before accessing the Internet. The authentication page is flexibly customized by Huawei’s eSight system back at the HQ and stored in a local cache. This can avoid access delays caused by remote authentication.
- The next-generation firewall deployed at each site can identify and filter 5 million malicious and illegal websites, thus securing Internet access and ensuring legal compliance. The firewall can effectively manage the traffic of the entire network, ensure that limited network bandwidth is fully utilized, and offer a better user experience.
Mexico Conectado has so far provided more than 65,000 public Internet hotspots and an additional 35,000 are being installed. A total of 96% of the country’s municipalities now have a public Internet access site and there are 18 million users annually.
Huawei looks forward to working with the Mexican government to expand this initiative in the future, and sharing the experience in other countries where it can be replicated.
In many developed countries, consumers do not pay upfront for a smartphone; instead, they commit to a contract of one or two years, which includes a phone as well as a certain amount of calls, SMS, data, and other services. In developing countries, this model has traditionally been difficult because of various reasons. For example, many poor consumers do not have assets or credit cards that they can use as collateral, and some even do not have bank accounts.
For many in rural areas or those with low incomes, even US$55 may be too much for a smartphone. In addition, many rural consumers lack access to electricity sources, which hinders the adoption of smartphones that often need to be recharged every day or two.
Working with M-KOPA in Kenya, Huawei is able to overcome these challenges. We have worked with M-KOPA to enable consumers to get a good quality Huawei smartphone for only 40 shillings a day (around 40 US cents). After they have paid back the cost of the phone over a number of days, usually in under a year, they will not need to pay any more money for the phone. M-KOPA is a pioneer in providing home solar kits which consumers mostly make payments for on a daily basis (after paying a small deposit) at a similar cost to that which they were paying before for other forms of energy, such as gas. This model ensures that clean electricity is available at a price point that is affordable for many. More than 200,000 homes are now using M-KOPA's kits to power lights, cookers, and smartphones in Kenya alone.
We believe this business model can dramatically increase the uptake of smartphones among the four billion who have not used one, often due to affordability reasons. In the first month of offering the product, 1,500 phones were sold – a number which we expect to increase as the product is offered to more of M-KOPA's customers. We are looking forward to expanding partnerships such as these in other countries in the future.
Over half of French residents with less than EUR900 a month salary do not have home Internet, or 6% of the population. We are working with the social organization Emmaus and the carrier SFR to provide subsidized broadband devices and SIM cards as well as training on how to use them to disadvantaged people who had never used the Internet before.
In 2015, Huawei donated 700 Wi-Fi hotspot devices and 1,000 smartphones (total value of around US$100,000); this is building on the more than 3,000 devices donated in 2013 and 2014. Emmaus, SFR, and Huawei all strongly believe in ensuring the initiative is sustainable, so Emmaus charge the users a small fee in order to cover the costs for operating the program and to ensure the users do desire such a device and will use it.
The project was recognized by the French government for its success.
"I live through the pen, but it is through the Internet that I am in France"
I left my country, Algeria, for France. I am a journalist and I know how to write. Thanks to the Internet, I have found an editor for my manuscripts about the development of women, religious problems and the drama of what happened in the 1990s in Algeria. The Internet has also enabled me to connect with my family: my wife and children are still in Algeria. It has also enabled me to access various administrative services much more easily as I try to establish myself in France. I fight every day to adapt and change my life. As long as there is life, there is hope, isn't there? —Mohand, 52
"With the Internet, I can maintain my French"
Without the Internet and the smartphone everything is truly difficult. The Internet lets me maintain my French language. Where I live no one speaks French, so every evening I read the news online. Mastering the language is so important. I should know: in Algeria I was a teacher. Here, I look after children and I help them with their homework after school. The children and the Internet are making sure I don't forget who I am! —Karima, 29