Fixed wireless broadband: panacea for municipal service delivery?

Developing Telecoms welcomes back Nikesh Patel, Motorola’s Business Manager for its Government and Enterprise Mobility Solutions (GEMS) sector. He configures the ideal wireless broadband solution and outlines specific applications.

Products aiming at a fixed wireless broadband solution must offer a robust and scalable platform that operates on low total costs of ownership and substantially reduces infrastructure and operating costs.

Local government and municipalities can, in addition, take advantage of a range of applications which are all IP-based. Surveillance of remote sites by means of IP-based video cameras (similar to CCTV), traffic control, video-conferencing between municipal offices and voice over IP can be implemented. What is more, other forms of broadband communication between departments, e.g., electricity, traffic and fire, can greatly contribute to service delivery, including enhanced public safety (not to mention e-learning and e-health).

What is required is:

  • a simple network design, combined with built-in installation and deployment assistance, which is therefore easier and quicker to get up and running;
  • very little infrastructure, which makes such a system ideal for providing access to remote areas where the terrain is often inhospitable; and
  • installation in less than 24 hours. In fact, one existing example offers aggregate data rates of up to 7 Mb/s, while the point-to-point system can deliver 20 Mb/s and, in many cases, be set up within the 24-hour framework.

Working in developing environments

Needs change in the developing markets and must be accommodated. High tolerance of interference and directional antennas, for example, allows users to scale the network to accommodate those same changing needs – be they wider geographic areas, an increased number of users or higher traffic volumes.

In one country in which Motorola is involved current telecommunications legislation prevents private telecommunications networks from being provided by anyone other than one organisation – unless the telecoms system is situated on contiguous pieces of land belonging to a single owner. This means that many municipalities are able to take advantage of the fact that they own the municipal roads. Because the roads link their premises, they are able to claim contiguity and can deploy equipment without approaching the regulator.

Motorola would claim that its products are more reliable than fixed lines and can assist municipalities in overcoming many of the obstacles they currently face when, for example, lines are down for weeks at a time, which prevents people from purchasing pre-paid electricity and water. In addition, little training is required for this type of system if the IT departments have basic IP skills.

Once a new telecommunications act is introduced in the country in question, municipalities could potentially use this form of system to generate additional revenue streams and attract investment. This is happening in the City of Fort Wayne in Indiana, USA. One equipment distributor explains: “Recognising the importance of technology and communication to Fort Wayne’s economic development, the local mayor devised a plan to provide businesses and residents in all parts of the greater Fort Wayne area with access to high-speed broadband services at reasonable costs. By working with local businesses, the City has ensured continued economic development in the region.”

Huge potential, in turn, is available for developing economies such as South Africa. For example, wireless broadband technology is being used by the Ulwazi E-Learning Partnership for an e-learning pilot. Launched with the aim of providing a solution to the challenges faced by a lack of resources in the educational sector, the partnership has created an e-learning community, connecting five schools in the Tshwane area to provide high-speed video, voice and data transfer.

Teachers and pupils share skills and resources using webcams, audio communication and electronic whiteboards. They also have instant access to additional online educational content and interact in real time with teachers at other schools. The potential that wireless broadband offers for improving service delivery in all aspects of local government is unlimited.

Municipalities could enhance efficiency by controlling the management and daily operation of water pumps and electricity supplies remotely; using video surveillance cameras to improve security and traffic control; providing fast and affordable Internet access to both urban and rural areas; and connecting hospitals and clinics to specialists in urban centres to promote e-health.

The applications are numerous and the prospects extremely bright.

Municipalities and local government stand to benefit immensely from wireless broadband solutions that provide always-on, high-speed Internet connectivity and support voice and data applications. The technology is cost-effective and easy to deploy and is already proving indispensable to governments around the globe.

Sign-up to our weekly newsletter

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news, articles, event and product updates posted on Developing Telecoms.
Subscribe to our FREE weekly email newsletters for the latest telecom info in developing and emerging markets globally.
Sending occasional e-mail from 3rd parties about industry white papers, online and live events relevant to subscribers helps us fund this website and free weekly newsletter. We never sell your personal data. Click here to view our privacy policy.