The European project TUCAN3G designed and developed an innovative system to provide isolated rural areas with mobile phone services, offering both voice and Internet access.
The dispersion of the population, the difficulties of access and lack of power, discourage mobile operators to serve these areas. Using conventional technologies, macrocells and satellite backhaul, does not ensure the return on investment in populations under 1,000 inhabitants.
The consortium of TUCAN3G, consisting of research centers, operators and equipment manufacturers, both European and Latin American, technically led by the University Rey Juan Carlos (URJC), seeks to bring 3G technology to remote areas of developing countries. To accommodate the limitations of the rural setting and provide a sustainable business model, the project proposes the use of femtocells (base of very small stations, designed initially for interior use) and backhaul (the network that connects users to the central operator) and WiLD based on alternative technology (modified for long distance WiFi). The project has achieved the integration and optimization of both technologies, offering low cost deployment and low power consumption through the use of solar energy. The demonstration pilot deployment in the Peruvian jungle has allowed the verification of this technical solution and at the same time economic sustainability for the progressive introduction of voice services and broadband data in these isolated communities of fewer than 250 inhabitants.
The TUCAN3G consortium had to resolve regulatory issues, technical (interference control, reduced consumption, optimization of WiFi links of many kilometers, quality control service) approval of equipment, to finally install the technology in 6 Amazon villages on the banks of Napo and Paranapura rivers, in the Department of Loreto in Peru. Since 3 months ago, the inhabitants of Tachsa Curaray, Tuta Pishco, Black Urco, Freedom, Varadero and San Juan have 3G telephony. Hence in the closure of the project, the researchers are verifying the economic hypothesis, to compare actual income and expenditure, and thus raise the scale of the initiative.
The excellent results that have been obtained, are shown in the article that the consortium has managed to publish in the prestigious scientific journal "IEEE Communications Magazine", the most widely read magazine among scientists who are engaged in telecommunications engineering. "We have built two pilot platforms in the Peruvian jungle, have validated the technical solution and verify the business model" said Andres Martinez, technical project coordinator and professor of Signal Theory and Communications in URJC. "These projects seek alternative solutions to the digital divide, not only between developed countries and those in developing countries, but within the latter, between urban and rural areas, reduce or at least not continue to grow. These technologies are designed, in fact, for those who need communication the most."
This system, that is a world pioneer, is working steadily since February 2016, having already reached an average of 120 calls per day per location. It is expected to reach 200 calls per day that will make the service being sustainable. The system has already served the coordination of urgent patient transfers, the communication among relatives living in different areas using videoconferencing, as well as banana producers negotiate the price of their product before traveling down the river.
This work has been funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission (TUCAN-3G / IST-601102 STP) and the Telecommunications Investment Fund of Peru (FITEL).
First images of the installation in the Peruvian jungle:
To learn more about TUCAN3G project click here.