The number of Internet users has more than tripled in a decade – from one billion in 2005 to an estimated 3.5 billion at the end of 2016. However, that still leaves around four billion people offline. Access to affordable and effective broadband is a vital enabler of economic growth and sustainable development. Many of these people live in the developing world. The largest challenges are in Africa – where about one in five people are connected.
The ITU estimates that 148 nations have national broadband plans in place to promote broadband quality and penetration, which shows just how critical this infrastructure has become. It is no surprise therefore that the global market for broadband shows strong growth. However, its growth is unevenly distributed. Broadband access for all in developing countries has not been fully achieved. In addition, the global online gender gap is thought to be widening slightly. Greater effort is needed to connect remaining offline communities, who are now found in more rural areas, and are disproportionately poorer, less educated, and mostly female.
Huawei provides 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. Our solutions enable carriers to cut costs, continuously invest in new high-speed networks, and deliver superior services to more users. Mobile phones provide the main form of Internet access in developing countries. Affordable high-quality devices are also critical infrastructure and we provide a wide range of products at different costs for all types of users. In 2016, we shipped over 139 million phones. We also work to extend battery life, which is essential in many places without convenient access to electricity.
Huawei's WTTx (Wireless To The X) is a wireless broadband network solution using 4G/4.5G technologies that is able to deliver cost-effective fiber-like broadband access to households and businesses. This is a particularly important technology in emerging economies because traditional fixed-line broadband is often too expensive to address the issue of the last mile access encountered in both densely populated urban areas and sparsely populated rural areas. By avoiding many of the costs associated with fixed broadband (e.g., license applications, civil engineering, and maintenance), telecom carriers can save time and money by providing wireless connections for the "last mile" and bring access to their customer's door. With WTTx, deployment can be 75% cheaper and completed in 90% less time compared to fixed-line technology.
This offers a real chance to connect previously inaccessible communities and is a key part of Huawei's contribution to the ITU's target to connect 50% of households (430 million households) in the developing world to the Internet by 2020. WTTx is already used in over 30 countries serving more than 30 million households (the equivalent of 56 million people) in Asia Pacific and Africa. We have also used this solution to connect rural communities in Europe and North America.
In 2016, Huawei bought WTTx to the Philippines where its 7,000 islands make fixed broadband very costly. Not surprisingly, until now broadband penetration has been low. Globe Telecom, which is the second largest carrier in the Philippines, selected Huawei's WTTx solution and was able to reduce its deployment costs by 80% and deployment time by 90% compared to fixed broadband. In densely populated urban areas, WTTx can connect hundreds of households per site. Nigerian carrier Swift, for instance, has deployed WTTx in Lagos and Abuja and is serving 200 households per site. In 2016, Huawei and Sri Lankan mobile carrier Dialog started 4.5G trials to help accelerate the commercial adoption of the latest generation of WTTx.
WTTx is transformational. In the Philippines, Globe Telecom has experienced a 39% year-on-year increase in household broadband subscribers. In Sri Lanka, WTTx has contributed to a 200% year-on-year increase in household broadband, with one million households projected to enjoy broadband by the end of 2017, accounting for one-fifth of total households. We are convinced that by working with our customers to improve affordability, Huawei's WTTx can make a significant contribution to ensuring broadband for all.
Connecting people in Africa remains a top priority. Huawei Marine Networks, in partnership with 20 carriers, has helped construct eight marine cable systems and upgrade two existing systems in Africa to provide better international data access for 15 countries. To date, Huawei Marine Networks has deployed 6,000 km of marine cable between Cameroon and Brazil that has improved international connectivity for a huge number of people.
In 2016, Huawei Marine Networks announced the successful delivery of the Avassa submarine cable system. The new system improves connectivity for approximately one million people on the Comoros islands, located on the east coast of Africa. The new 260 km submarine cable will improve on the existing microwave technology that has carried the majority of inter-island capacity, but due to its low speed and limited capacity was no longer sufficient to support the island's growing economy. This new high-speed, large-capacity submarine system will help support local economic development and provide local businesses and residents with an improved user experience.
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.