Why Wi-Fi is essential for rural connectivity

30 November 2022

In a new study from the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), Wi-Fi has been demonstrated as the best connectivity to help bridge the digital divide to bring broadband to rural communities.

According to the WBA, more than 1 billion people live in rural communities with poor or completely unavailable internet access. This limits access to digital services such as telehealth and online education as well as job opportunities involving telecommuting.

This digital divide persists in both developed and developing nations and may become a permanent problem of inequality if nothing is done, according to the United Nations. To help in this regard in the U.S., the Biden administration approved $502 million in funding in September for high-speed internet to rural communities.

The WBA report, called “Wi-Fi is Essential to Bridge the Digital Divide in Rural Areas,” explores a variety of ways Wi-Fi could be deployed to address challenges found in rural environments with different types of backhaul, targeted applications, market conditions and other factors.

One deployment method includes a new 6 GHz band giving service providers additional spectrum to support more users and deliver speeds and performance.

Wi-Fi can allow telecoms, mobile operators and other providers to address a wide variety of use cases such as:

  • Using fiber to extend services into rural areas over microwave.
  • Cellular operators using Wi-Fi to provide fixed and mobile broadband services.

“Wi-Fi is uniquely positioned to extend voice, video and broadband services to the nearly 1 billion people worldwide in rural areas who have poor or no connectivity,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of WBA. “Unlike cellular, Wi-Fi is already included in virtually all smartphones, tablets, laptops, streaming boxes and other devices. This ubiquity also means Wi-Fi has the kind of high-volume low-cost structure that’s critical for ensuring devices and services can be priced low enough to maximize adoption.”

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