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According to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG), people in financially deprived and rural areas have the right to access the Internet. SDG 9 specifically emphasizes that connecting the unconnected should be a priority of governments. Internet-based services such as distance learning, precision agriculture, public kiosks for weather forecasts, and healthcare services definitely will uplift the quality of life in rural areas.
The existing digital divide prevents people from elevating their quality of life by using services offered on the Internet. Resolving the Digital Divide problem in unconnected areas, especially in the 6G era, needs both technological and non-technological approaches. It also requires tight cooperation between all enterprises, such as Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Local Community Networks (LCNs), and governmental bodies to address this problem. There are various challenges towards achieving this goal: technologies such as blockchain and Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN) need to be brought together to create innovative solutions. It also requires taking the right regulatory decisions at the right time to manage and assist the technologies. The Center for Wireless Networks and Applications in Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham defines and performs various research studies and courses to help connect the unconnected rural population.
It is necessary to understand users’ needs in detail to prevent undesirable effects on the target societies. Although developing high-performance and efficient solutions are necessary, it might not be enough to solve their problems. Raising awareness and improving digital literacy would be an effective solution to this problem. There is an imperative prerequisite for constant efforts from governments and other communities to support the development of wireless network connectivity solutions in inaccessible rural areas. This requires effective participation of different stakeholders including governments, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), Local Community Networks (LCNs), Enterprises, and Utility companies.
Current trends indicate that 5G network deployment is gaining traction around the world. 5G has huge potential to serve the unique and differentiated needs of rural communities, servicing quality-of-life enhancements. The key features of 5G technology, such as small cells, low-cost radio access points, energy-efficient data centers (μDCs), and low footprint dedicated (private) networks help to bring connectivity solutions in rural areas. The ultimate aim is to enhance the resilience of the communities to cope with disasters utilizing these technologies. Disaggregated Radio Access Network (Open RAN), blockchain technology, and the use of network slicing enable efficient, privacy-conscious networking for the delivery of critical services.
The key applications required for the rural areas can be categorized as follows:
The research at Amrita WNA explores the recent trends in 5G and 6G technologies to design and deliver secure, sustainable, and affordable connectivity solutions for underprivileged users. The roles of the reference design, system architecture, and effective smart contracts are addressed in the creation of sustainable communication infrastructure. The relevant research areas in AWNA are as follows:
There are ongoing global initiatives for “connecting the unconnected” communities. One of these solutions, providing affordable connectivity for marine fishermen communities is already prototyped and deployed with the OceanNet platform at Amrita WNA.
The research at AWNA also follows the activities of standardization bodies and initiatives for 5G Open RAN, and actively participates in the O-RAN alliance as a member. O-RAN alliance plays an important role in bringing the industry together to create a more software-based, virtualized, intelligent, flexible, and energy-efficient network.
Dr. Maneesha Ramesh
Amrita Center for Wireless Networks and Applications
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham
Amritapuri Campus,Clappana P O
Kollam – 690525, Kerala, INDIA
Phone: +91 476 2801280
Fax: +91 476 2896178
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