Intel’s Digital Community Project consists of
combining standards based wireless communication solutions such as
WiFi and WiMax with information technology to create a revolution in
access to digital services. It enables the connection of communities
with limited access by driving down both build up and maintenance
costs and empowering local governments. This is a result of combining
open platforms with global standards. Open platforms take advantage of
Moore’s Law to drive down costs by approximately doubling equipment
performance every twelve months without additional costs. This has
been a reality in the IT industry for the past decades and it is now
coming to telecommunications world. Global standards provide
interactivity for solutions from various vendors which simplifies
network build out and operation, empowering local governments to
create and operate their own IT and telecom infrastructures.
The digital community initiative allows local
governments to provide accessible broadband connection to the Internet
and to introduce new public services at aggressive prices. It can also
help to increase safety, attract investment and promote economical
development to improve the overall quality of life of the local
population. Emerging markets with limited investments in
telecommunication infrastructure have a unique opportunity to take
advantage of wireless broadband solutions by connecting excluded
communities such as remote villages or increasing the coverage in
markets with limited services such as low income areas in large and
medium cities. The cooperation between state and municipal governments
and the private sector can accelerate adoption by reducing the
required initial investment in infrastructure (capex), sharing
operational costs (opex), and building economies of scale. New
business models can now be developed with focus on digital inclusion
and replication models can be created to cover whole countries.
Intel has been working in Brazil to help the
industry understand the enabling characteristics of these new
technologies and avoid Brazil missing this opportunity. . During the
Wireless Forum series of events in São Paulo, the National Agency of
Telecommunications (Anatel) and the industry debated how to rethink
public property such as radio spectrum and access to public facilities
in relation to the concept of these new services. Intel implemented a
proof of concept project in cooperation with Ministry of Education in
the cities of Brasília (DF) and Ouro Preto (MG). The objective was to
verify the possibilities of applying wireless broadband to connect
public schools which would serve as starting points for connecting
whole communities. The project seeks to establish a cookbook for how
the Ministry of Education can create a partnership with the local
government to transform the connection to a school lab into a wireless
cloud covering the whole community. The city of Ouro Preto presented a
good location for pilot. It is located in highly uneven land which
creates propagation challenges for the radio. Ouro Preto is also a
United Nations designated “World Heritage Site" making it impossible
to disturb the city’s infrastructure to lay cables. Also, the city is
host to a federal university that provides technical support to the
pilot. Its human development index also matches other locations where
the private sector believes there is limited business opportunity.
Intel intends WiMax to prove the opposite.
However, wireless solutions are just the first
step. There are a number of barriers to implement digital communities.
One of them is the current regulations that create a barrier for local
governments to operate as telecom service providers. This limits the
government’s ability to collaborate with the private sector by
creating a competitive disadvantage. The usual limited offerings of
backhaul solutions combined with a typical small paying base in remote
locations makes the network's business model difficult to address.
There are still other challenges on how to best balance political
interests, implementation costs and planning. The direct engagement of
the local population is fundamental. A partnership between the
communities with their local governments should be implemented from
the inception of the project. Integration companies, service providers
and potential commercial partners should also be included from the
beginning. The project’s activities should be actively communicated
and promoted to the whole community.
An innovative concept called “wireless corridor”
is been explored by Intel in Brazil to remove some of these barriers.
A network of towers and repeaters allow for the simultaneous
connection of several neighboring towns instead of just one location.
The “wireless corridor” uses a single backbone infrastructure based on
the same technology to standardize the overall network and reduce
operational costs. The corridor is built on frequencies that don't
require spectrum licenses such as 2.4 and 5.8GHz. Remote management of
the corridor allows for its optimization to more efficiently use the
network resources and better address the needs of the connected towns.
A local financial sponsor is established to aggregate the network
under on player and facilitate the interface with potential commercial
operators interested in exploring the installed infrastructure for
paid services. This arrangement can generate economies of scale that
justify the commercial exploration of the network in spite of a
limited paying base and remote locations.
To invest in the digital revolution means to
promote the social inclusion. Intel believes that taking advantage of
this opportunity is a collective responsibility shared by the industry,
academia, and government. Intel is working closely with these players
to develop education solutions, venture capital funding, new
regulation, and adoption of standards based solutions to help
transform this vision into reality.
Max C. Leite
Director Technology Programs, Latin America