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Connecting the Unconnected in Mongolia - Case Study

Unitel’s “Ger Internet” WTTx wireless home broadband solution delivers rural connectivity in remote areas of Mongolia with very low population density. 

Unitel is a Mongolian communications operator providing services such as IPTV, Internet, fixed-line telephony services, broadband, and mobile communications. In April 2016 the company launched 4G LTE for the Mongolian market. Unitel worked with Huawei to provide its rural customers with wireless home broadband.

Providing home broadband to a large country with low population density is problematic

Mongolia is the world’s 18th largest country, yet ranks 239th in population density at around 1.9 people/km2 - above only Greenland and the Falkland Islands. Under these circumstances, it would be prohibitively expensive to provide conventional wired broadband to the home.

The population is widely dispersed, with 55% living outside of the country’s towns and cities. Of this percentage, almost half (40%) are nomadic herdsmen, embracing a way of life which has endured since ancient times. Mongolia’s steppe geography is unsuited to wide-scale agriculture, and so herdsmen drive their livestock to fresh pastures, which involves moving to a new home. For this reason, the Mongol herders use easy to assemble and disassemble tent-like homes known as gers.

As a result of these factors, rural home broadband penetration in the country is less than 2% - much lower than the global average of 9.3%.

Unitel provides herders with Huawei’s fixed wireless access routers

b315s 607 450x450To connect the unconnected itinerant herders, Huawei and Unitel launched Ger Internet - a ‘plug and play’ wireless home broadband Wi-Fi solution, in January 2017.

The solution is powered by Unitel’s nationwide 4.5G LTE network that includes LTE-A Carrier Aggregation and 4x4 MIMO to reach speeds up to 225Mbit/s on the downlink and 75Mbit/s on the uplink, per sector. The solution also includes the fully wireless Huawei B315s-607 router. The router is provided to customers by Unitel either free or with a subsidy.

To date, the service has connected 8% of the country’s unconnected population. Currently 50,000 households, 200,000 personal users and 1,200 businesses use the service.

However, nearly 600,000 households are still offline. By 2020, Huawei and Unitel are planning to add a further 1,200 network sites to reach a total of 300,000 households with Ger Internet wireless broadband.

Increased connectivity means more opportunity

A connection to the Internet can increase people’s autonomy, knowledge base and economic potential. Users of Ger Internet have already reaped tangible benefits from the connectivity offered by the solution. Examples include:

  • 1,800 herders are receiving up-to-the-minute weather forecasts and information on the latest foraging and farming techniques. This enables them to increase their productivity.
  • Among 1,200 small and medium-sized businesses, 28% have used the solution to help build websites, increasing profit by 190% in the last three months due to advertising and access to a wider customer base. It is estimated that over 1,800 farmers and 25,000 consumers are actively using the “UB shop” platform - one of Mongolia’s first online marketplaces - now that they have Internet access. (Source: Mongolian app development company Slide Ltd.)
  • 35 rural public schools can access and download videos and other educational materials.
  • 74 hospitals are witnessing improved healthcare owing to Ger Internet’s enablement of online consultations. It is expected that 560,000 Mongolians will be using online healthcare by the end of 2018. (Source: Communication Research Center of Mongolia.)
  • Nearly 35,000 rural medical personnel have received continued education courses via Ger Internet connections.

Through these benefits Ger Internet users’ lives are improved economically, educationally and physically.

Benefits roll down to operators

While the solution is currently being deployed in Mongolia, it is widely applicable elsewhere, with a large proportion of the global population living as nomads or in rural locations in underdeveloped countries where provision of fixed broadband access is difficult.

Provision of this type of service helps operators:

  • Grow their network – Unitel is planning to add technologies to its existing mobile network, such as Massive MIMO (64T64R), multi-carrier aggregation, and 256QAM. It will also provide additional LTE-TDD 2300 MHz spectrum to its network. The increased revenue provided by Ger Internet could be used to enable these upgrades.
  • Subscription growth.
  • Service growth – such as providing IoT, AI, cloud, social and data analytics services.

Through broadband fixed wireless access, mobile operators can help their consumers become more educated, healthier and economically prosperous. This in turn leads to benefits for mobile operators themselves: nurturing educational and business opportunities in the rural community generates economic activity and commercial creativity that is beneficial to the entire economy.

This article is sponsored by Huawei Technologies

huawei logo large600Huawei is a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider. Our aim is to enrich life and improve efficiency through a better connected world, acting as a responsible corporate citizen, innovative enabler for the information society, and collaborative contributor to the industry.

For more information about Huawei solutions for remote communities please visit www.carrier.huawei.com/en/products/wireless-network

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