The Sachet Telecom Architecture for Off Grid Locations: An Indian Case Study

The Sachet Telecom Architecture for Off Grid Locations: An Indian Case Study

Rohit Prasad (Management Development Institute, India) and Rakesh Mehrotra (AKG Engineering College, India)
DOI: 10.4018/jbdcn.2012040103
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Abstract

In the light of past attempts to provide universal access to telephony and data connectivity, this paper outlines a new telecom architecture tailored to the needs of rural areas, the Sachet Telecom technology. It presents an economic model for an Indian state, Rajasthan, showing the Sachet Telecom architecture, besides empowering local entrepreneurs, scores over the conventional approach in commercial and environmental terms. The approach has the potential to be replicated for rural voice and data connectivity in energy starved regions across the world and can act as a bridge to prepare the population for the coming of fibre networks.
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1. Management And Policy Implications

  • Operators can deploy telecom networks that are aligned to the demand of the target market and the specific geography. Such networks offer commercial, entrepreneurial and environmental benefits over conventional architectures.

  • Policy makers should avoid superimposing lofty urban wireless standards on rural networks.

  • A two pronged strategy for rural access must be followed: the immediate build out of an optic fibre network and the parallel deployment of a wireless network closely aligned with complementary inputs and absorptive capacity of the target population.

3. Conditions Of Supply In The Rural Hinterland

The current GSM architecture (referred to as the ‘conventional’ architecture’) for rural areas is very similar to the GSM architecture used for urban areas, incorporating a central tower covering a cluster of villages1. In rural conditions this comes up against a combination of challenges.

  • High Cost of Network: In urban areas, the operational bottleneck is spectrum as operators must service a large number of subscribers in a small area. In the rural hinterland the bottleneck is network coverage as operators must service a small number of subscribers spread over a large area. Setting up a rural network is costly for a number of reasons.

    • a.

      Low population density leads to lower addressable market per base transceiver station (BTS)

    • b.

      Rural towers are more likely to be ground-based than urban towers, due to the scattered population and fewer buildings of sufficient strength supporting roof-top towers. Ground-based towers could cost 50% more than roof-top towers

    • c.

      High cost of backhaul: Given the large distances and lower traffic involved, microwave is the medium of choice for back-haul connectivity in rural areas. Due to the high bandwidth requirement and spectrum crunch the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, is insisting that operators move to a fibre based backhaul at the earliest. This is costly given the initial volume of traffic that is forthcoming. Issues of very high cost of laying fiber, right of way and change of land use also come into the picture.

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