|Topic:||New Telecom Services in Remote Areas – A Brainsteaser|
|Author:||Dr. Ziaedin Chahabadi|
Serving remote areas is a challenge for telecom operators since the per client cost of the “”last-mile”” network is higher, than in densely populated urban areas as are, also, maintenance and operating costs. Cost-effective broadband in remote reconfiguration and remote monitoring. The deciding factors for broadband rollout are: availability, sufficient number of potential areas requires a multiservice platform that maximises the possibility of using whatever legacy infrastructure is found, permits automatic network subscribers per individual service and sufficient electrical power.
Are you one of the privileged people that has broadband access? If so, consider yourself lucky, because this is?t always the case, particularly in remote areas. The rollout of new broadband services in rural or remote areas is a special challenge for the telecom industry. First, the number of potential customers per access node is small when compared to towns or cities. In addition, nodes have to be installed near users – typically within a street cabinet – because the length of the ‘last mile’ network is limited by the physical characteristics of the transmission medium. Building sound business cases for broadband rollout to remote areas is extremely challenging. Perhaps the biggest question is whether low population areas should be offered services at all. Not surprisingly, numerous economical, technical and political factors have to be taken in to account. The question of whether broadband should be considered a primary service – such as water, electricity or basic telephony – is heavily political and the situation differs greatly country by country. In today’s ‘information society’, the availability of broadband services contributes greatly to a location’s attractiveness and commercial value. Once upon a time, it was transport networks that opened up remote regions. Today, it is the telecom networks, which can help even the most remote areas of a country to take part in world affairs and global commerce. In Switzerland for example, by the end of 2001 5% of all households were equipped with a broadband connection (DSL or CATV). In comparison, Austria and Germany had 8%, USA 13%, Sweden 17% and Korea 40 % of their housholds connected with broadband. Access network situation analysis So what customers need to be supported and what services do they want to receive? In rural areas, customers are usually private households and also some businesses, such as industrial organisations or SMEs. For private households, the most important is Internet access. Due to the increasing number of multimedia applications, higher bandwidth is needed. For companies and SMEs, Internet connections need to access, receive and send data, often at high speed or in large volumes. Remote Office / Branch Office (ROBO), the connection of a company’s branches, is also important. This ties in with the trend towards complete integration of business processes across an entire company, regardless of location. Creating a new access environment The existing access network infrastructure installed by incumbent operators was originally optimised for the transmission of voice services, typically 64kbps per voice channel. To support the changing needs of telecom users, these networks now have to be upgraded to support data applications of up to several Mbps. Many telecom operators are deploying ADSL as favoured access technology for the private household sector. Cable TV vendors use CATV modems for private users, but offer business customers symmetrical DSL technologies (such as SDSL) and leased line access are being deployed. The special challenge for the access network The challenges for telecom networks in rural or remote areas are numerous: * Users density The more users that can be connected to the same network equipment the greater is the return on investment, revenues, and the economies of scale associated with capital and operating expenditure (CAPEX and OPEX). * Access to the backbone network The traffic has to be transported to and from the core or backbone network. Different mediums are used, including copper, fibre or radio technologies, such as microwave. Voice and data are increasingly being transmitted together. Often, the capacity available for new services is very limited. Transport capacity is critical when quality of service (QoS) has to be guaranteed for business customers. *Existing physical infrastructure at the access node Existing access nodes have to accommodate new services, but the possibilities for extending the node’s capabilities are often restricted by, space limitations, limited air conditioning and inadequate electrical supplies. * Geographic range The distance broadband services can reach is limited. This is especially so for copper; the higher the transmission capacity, the shorter the distance that can be bridged. With ADSL, 5km is the maximum distance from the access node. This distance becomes even smaller for services with greater bandwidth requirements, such as VDSL. * Characteristics of the line In some regions, the quality of existing copper lines is a limiting criteria. In others, aerial lines can be difficult re-deploy for broadband services. In Switzerland, for example only two thirds of its 560, 000 aerial lines are suitable for ADSL services. * Alternatives to copper Cable TV operators are providing alternatives to the Internet access and telephony services offered by traditional telecom operators. According to the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), 85% of all households in Switzerland have cable TV access, of which 67% can also be supplied with broadband services. CATV is ideal for providing broadband in densely populated areas. In areas where there is no existing infrastructure, wireless access technologies have a big advantage, because the high costs of fixed land lines can be eliminated. Indeed, over large distances, or in less populated areas, wireless transmission is often the only commercially viable option New mobile technologies, such as UMTS and WLAN, could provide alternatives even for fixed broadband access . * Pricing for users Users in remote areas generally expect prices similar to those charged in urban areas. This demand is tough to meet, considering the cost of building networks to reach remote areas. When regulators do not open the ’Last mile‘ to use by competitive operators, government subsidies are necessary. and the balancing of political interests plays a major role. Cost is the key Operators intending to offer broadband services in remote areas have to focus on the cost of the complete solution, including both initial investment and on-going costs. To reduce cost, existing network infrastructure should be re-used as much as possible. This means that existing access network installations such as junction boxes have to handle new services. Space can be restricted, the energy supply limited and climate can be a problem in open-air installations. Existing installations also have to be reused for backhaul into the backbone network. Therefore, whatever technologies are in place – optical transmission, TDM, E1, DSL, ATM radio links – have to be utilized. Furthermore, the solution has to be able to support future services and network technologies and be able to migrate towards ‘next generation’ network architectures. Operators soon find that cost-effective operation of the access network is even more important than reducing the cost of investment in helping them offer competitive prices. To reduce operational costs on-site support must be avoided as much as possible and remote test and validation procedures need to be used to check service availability. Furthermore, the interfaces to customer premises’ equipment have to be simplified so they can be activated and connected by the customer and one system should be used for both voice and data services so that just one field service crew can provide support. The costs associated with other processes involved in running a network must also be taken in to account by operators. Network management is an important cost factor, and as on-site intervention is so expensive, remote management of access nodes is important. The different network elements need to be supervised and software bugs analysed quickly and easily Network reconfiguration, resulting from changes in service contracts for example, affecting bandwidth – need to be implemented automatically and quickly whenever necessary. Accordingly, the network management system for the access network must coordinate between and integrate all the systems associated with supporting subscribers. The integration has to occur continuously and consistently over all network layers, from element management to network areas of overall systems (cross domain management) and beyond to business software applications, including, for example, ERP and CRM. Due to the complexity of supporting different subscribers and services, mobile networks have pioneered the use of advanced network management systems and have set the benchmark for managing processes in this way. These ‘best practices’ are now being adopted by the entire telecom industry. Managed Multiservice Access Platform is the route to success Our experience shows that the basis for realisation of broadband services in difficult environments is to use a highly flexible and adaptable multiservice platform. The benefit of this approach is that it enables operators to deploy mixtures of different services, to different customers, across different technologies. This approach means that it becomes feasible to roll out services, even in areas of relatively low density. In conclusion, the deciding factors of whether to invest in remote broadband rollout are: availability, sufficient number of potential subscribers per individual service and sufficient electrical power. Service providers also need to consider how to minimise operational costs, using techniques such as network management integration. Last but not least, the network has to be able to continually adapt to changing customer demands, with the ability to support new services and technologies in the future.