The Problem of Rural Cellular

Cellular networks are very efficient in providing coverage. When the first concept of using “cells” was introduced by Bell Labs in 1947 and the first mobile communication service in 1979, it was widely thought that this service will not acquire a wide adoption and will be only limited to special enterprise and government sectors. However, with the advancement of RF technology and innovative concepts of optimizing radio cells, mobile communication gained a global momentum in the 90’s represented by the introduction of GSM that sparked a world wide competition of service coverage. That exact race and “optimization” of radio cellular technology was one of the reasons of the downfall of the newly (at that time) introduced concept of Low Earth Orbit satellite phones (e.g. Iridium). People thought that it takes a lot of investment to erect towers and connect them to host thousands and millions of calls than to launch a global coverage constellation of satellites to allow people to make calls everywhere. Guess what: they were wrong.

The concept of a “cell” is really intriguing and smart, a radio cell is like a living organism cell: it can expand and contract based on usage, cells handover to each other, and they are centrally managed to optimize traffic. Cellular can greatly increase the capacity of simultaneous wireless phone calls. While a phone company for example, has a license to 1000 frequencies, each cell must use unique frequencies with each call using one of them when communicating. Because cells only slightly overlap, the same frequency can be reused. This is even more greatly increased when phone companies implemented digital networks. With digital, one frequency can host multiple simultaneous calls increasing capacity even more. The first wave of LEO satellite constellations in the 90’s has ended with companies going bankrupt or never reaching commercial deployment (e.g. Teledesic) and mobile prevailed.

The world population increased from 5 billion in 1987 to 7.7 billion today and is expected to reach 9.6 billion in 2050. Adjacent to that growth there has been (and will be) huge pressure to optimize all aspects of industrialization, energy resources and their and distribution, agriculture, trade movement, logistics, health systems, and many more. Luckily we managed to make a lot of technological advances that qualifies us to meet these challenges (ehm! or at least I try to believe so today given the COVID-19 situation). At the backbone of that capability are: Data and Telecommunication: our global networks need an upgrade to cope with the upcoming changes in our world for the next decades to come, and here was our answer to that: 5G. Now I do not want to go into the details of how that works, but what is obvious is that cellular mobile communication is no longer confined to urban areas and mobile operators are no longer satisfied with covering only 25% of the world and catering only to populations that have good connectivity and can buy phones. At any given moment, hundreds of million cellular users lose (or do not have at all) connectivity because they live, work or travel outside the range of a mobile cell network. In addition to that, it estimated that 2.5 billion people do not have access to affordable cellular connectivity. The economics of ground-based cell towers make it too expensive to expand into remote areas lacking coverage, such as in oceans, rural North America and Australia, polar regions, deserts in Middle East, South-East Asia, Latin America, or sub-Saharan Africa. With the demand of remote massive machine communications, the lost opportunity is no longer as it was in the 90's.

Mobile operators and vendors and working their way to address this problem of the “remote cell”. Recently, Ericsson announced that it is expanding its cellular Narrowband-IoT coverage (the 5G standard for massive machine communication) from 100km to 120km per cell! This is highly pushed by the ever growing need of device and machine connectivity in rural areas where cellular coverage is limited or non-existent.

Ericsson, Telstra, and qualcomm achieve groundbreaking 120 kbps in rural Australia

Mobile Network Operators need access in remote and rural areas to address an untapped market, enable mobility, and serve their customers anywhere in the world. Cellular coverage is limited and operators will never be able install their base stations, towers, and fiber cables in the seas, deserts, mountains, villages and cover the uncovered Earth landmass and oceans. Luckily, at OQ Technology ( we have been working since 2017 on figuring out how to make cellular technology works over satellites to enable mobile operators to connect directly to their end-users, and with our patented technology and working closely with space and telecom experts, we managed to successfully demonstrate cellular 5G Internet-of-Things communication in a flying satellite through our Tiger-1 mission in 2019. Having a global infrastructure in space, land and sea that use all the same technology, follow the same global standard, and allow operators to seamlessly link and roam to their users is a truly global ubiquitous communication, it is not anymore satellite vs mobile as it used to be before, but rather a mobile everywhere service!

#5G #IoT #Satellite #3GPP #Wireless #OQTEC #OQTechnology #NBIoT #Satcom #Telecommunication



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