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On Delivering Broadband Telecommunication

Services to Rural and Remote Areas
Dept. of Electronics and Communication
Institute of Technology, Nirma University
Gujarat, India
Abstract— The dawn of the information age brought to light
technical and economic challenges in delivering broadband
telecommunication services to rural and remote communities;
challenges created by tiny pockets of subscribers scattered
over a vast area. This paper focuses on aspects of
telecommunication network planning pertaining to the
provisioning of broadband services in rural and remote areas.
Dealing with such challenges calls for an appropriate system
engineering approach and the utilization of suitable network
building blocks, which could differ significantly from those of
the urban areas. The paper views the customer access line as
the crucial network building block in determining the optimal
architecture of a telecommunication network. A wideband
VHF radio-based customer access line capable of bridging
distances of up to 100 kilometers would make a significant
difference in deploying cost-effective broadband infrastructure
in rural and remote areas.
Since the invention of the telephone, provisioning of
telecommunication services in rural and remote areas has been
a challenge in both technical and economic terms; a challenge
that has often turned into political issues for the government of
the day. The onset of the information revolution has brought
with it the need for broadband telecommunication services in
rural and remote areas. The rural and remote
telecommunication environment, in general, is characterized
by a vast service area, populated by scattered tiny pockets of
users generating light and sporadic volumes of teletraffic.
From a network planning viewpoint, the aspects of remoteness
and low population density present significant technical
challenges, and from a business viewpoint, a poor return on
investment. The paper views the customer access line as the
crucial net-work building block in determining the optimal
architecture of a telecommunication network. The role played
by the customer access line in the planning process of a
telecommunication network is thus a central issue for a costeffective solution

areas, where distances from the local telephone exchange are in
the order of a few kilometers. On the other hand, it is a major
problem when considering rural and remote areas, where
distances from the nearest telephone exchange can be in the order
of tens and even hundreds of kilometers.
A. An example of rural telephone systems
For many years, narrowband analogue and low capacity digital
radio transmission systems have been used to deliver excellent
telephony services in rural and remote areas of Australia. These
services operated in the VHF and UHF radiofrequency bands. An
example of such systems is the NEC Digital Radio Concentrator
System (DRCS), which is based on a fixed-cellular network
architecture. The DRCS idea was originally conceived in the then
Telecom Australia Research Laboratories in the late nineteen
seventies [1]. As shown in Figure 1, a DRCS concentrates 127
exchange lines onto 15 digital trunks (times lots) of 32 kbps
employing adaptive differential pulse code modulation
(ADPCM). The TDM Controller forms the primary cell and the
network is then built up by repeaters. Subscribers units access the
network either through the TDM Controller or Repeaters. The
addition of a repeater creates a cell. A dropout unit (DOU)
provides telephone service in the location of a Repeater if
required. The service area that can be covered by a DRCS
extends to about 600 km formed by a maximum of 13 repeater
units in tandem.


No doubt, provisioning of telephone services in rural and
remote areas is by far easier than provisioning high-speed data
services. The standard 4-kHz voice channel and its equivalent
64-kbps digital channel do not pose much of a challenge. The
foregoing statements are underpinned by range bandwidth
relationship of the communication channel, where the channel
bandwidth decreases with increase in range. That is true of all
transmission media, whether metallic cable, optical fiber cable
or radio channel. This is unlikely to be a problem in urban

Fig. 1. An example of rural telecommunication system - NEC DRCS

The nominal repeating distance is 50 km and the distance from
a subscriber to a repeater is 30 km. The traffic handling capacity
at a chosen Grade of Service represents a major limitation on
coverage area size. To highlight the traffic handling capacity of
the DRCS, a simple teletraffic analysis is shown in Table I,
where values of the probability of blocking, known in the
literature as grade of service (GoS), are listed against the
possible teletraffic load in Erlang. It is interesting to point out at
this point that the choice of GoS is often a commercial decision,
which is strongly tight to the perception of the subscriber. The
choice of the GoS is also influenced by the size of the
population to be served. A more modern version of the DRCS,
known as Digital Radio Multiple Subscriber System
(DRMASS), provides higher transmission capacity was later
introduced by NEC. The success of the DRCS and DRMASS at
that time was due to the fact that it was designed specifically for
the rural and remote areas telecommunications environment, in
particular the low trunking capacity and the choice of the radio
frequency band of operation. DRCS operates in either the 500
MHz or 1500 MHz radiofrequency bands.
In general, the process of planning a telecommunication
network is concerned with facilitating connectivity amongst a
population of users distributed over a service area with defined
boundaries (coverage) and providing the appropriate number of
channels to carry the generated load of teletraffic (capacity) at
an acceptable level of blocking probability (Grade-of-Service).
The resulting network is a collection of interconnected
switching nodes, each of which is strategically positioned
within the service area to provide access to a subset of the total
users’ population. Clearly, the size of area that can be served by
a single switching node depends on the maximum possible
length of the customer access line. This idea is illustrated
graphically in Figure 2, where it can be seen that an area served
by a single node would require nine nodes if the maximum
length of the customer access line is reduced to a third. This fact
implies that increasing the length of the customer access line
will result in a telecommunication network with fewer network
nodes. In turn, minimizing the number of nodes will result in a
reduction of the overall cost of the construction, operation,
administration, and maintenance of the network.
No doubt the maximum length of a customer access line
depends on the technology employed, but regardless of technology, the transmission bandwidth is inversely proportional to
the length. For example, the data rate provided by an
Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) depends on the
distance from the node. Therefore, a trade-off between length
and transmission bandwidth holds the key for striking the right
balance between performance and cost. The term ’line’ is used
here in a general sense and refers to the transmission medium
over which a customer’s information signals are transported to
and from the network node. Hence, a line may be a traditional
twisted-pair copper wire, an optical fiber, or a radio link. This
paper examines the utilization of wideband VHF radio
channels extending over paths beyond line-of-sight as a solution
to customer access line for delivering broadband
telecommunication services to communities in rural and remote

Fig. 2. (a): A single switching node is serving an area, (b): The length of
customer access line is a third of that in (a)

A The Wideband VHF Radio Channel
The very-high-frequency (VHF) range is defined as between
30 and 300 MHz [3]. From a terrestrial radiowave propagation
viewpoint, VHF is the most interesting band in the entire
radiofrequency spectrum. The beginning of the VHF band marks
a very important transition in the propagation behaviour of
radiowaves. At that point, radiowaves mostly escape the Earth’s
atmosphere to the outer space, rather than being trapped by the
ionosphere and reflected back to the Earth’s surface. The VHF
band is often quoted in the industry as the ”band of choice” for
operation in rural and remote areas. That is because of its ease of
diffraction around terrain obstacles and tropospheric propagation
behaviour, enabling propagation over much longer distances than
the higher frequency bands.

B Antenna Height Consideration
Terrestrial line-of-sight radio links are designed to approximate
free-space conditions by elevating the antennas above the
Earth’s surface to achieve path clearance of 0.6 of the first
Fresnel zone radius. Under these conditions, the free-space
model is used to estimate the path loss. This is often the case in
microwave radio links but rarely used in VHF radio links.
Obstruction of line-of-sight results in additional losses above
that of free-space due to the diffraction and scattering of radio
waves by the obstacle. Providing a clear line-of-sight for a radio
link extending over a long distance (for example 100 km) often
requires elevating the antennas to great heights, which could be
impractical or prohibitively expensive. Radio wave propagation
by diffraction implies the use of low height antennas with
absence of line-of-sight, that is beyond line-of-sight.
The system engineering process is an ”orderly manner” of
bringing an idea to life. It encompasses considerations of
technical, economical, and environmental aspects throughout
the entire life cycle of a product or a service [2]. Figure 3 is an
example of a system engineering process for telecommunication network. System engineering of a telecommunication
network infrastructure for rural and remote areas begins with
formulating the statement of needs and analyzing the users
requirements. The latter is used as the basis for specifying the
functions and performance of the infrastructure that satisfies the
users requirements. Functions are allocated to system
components capable of the required level of performance. The
remainder of the process is concerned with aspects of
implementation operation, adminstration, and maintenance.
Issues of replacement and retirement of system components are
embedded into the overall system engineering process. Like
any other system, the top-level requirements of a
telecommunication network can be specified in terms of a set of
functions and their related performance. The two major
functions of a telecommunication network is providing coverage over the intended service area and having the capacity to
handel the offered load of traffic. As for the performance
A. Formulation of user requirements
Telecommunication needs of rural and remote communities are
unique in many ways. In some sense, the rules of safety of life
at sea (SOLAS) should also apply to the living conditions of
extreme remoteness. Diverse means of telecommunication must
be considered as mandatory requirements. In general, those
needs are as classified below:
1) safety and security
2) natural disasters
3) news and weather
4) social interactions
5) entertainment
6) education and
7) business
The above needs can be satisfied by a variety of means but
telecommunications plays a central role in fulfilling those
needs. The contribution of a fast means of transport would be so
great but the support of telecommunication is still needed.
Whatever the solution is, it must be economically viable
without compromising safety and security.

Fig. 3. An example of a System Engineering Process

B. Choice of switching technology
Telecommunication switching, in general, is performed by
either one of two techniques: circuit switching and packet
switching. In the former case, a permanent circuit is established between the calling and called parties or communication
devices for the entire duration of the call. In the latter case,
digital information or digitized analogue signals are transported
in variable length packets over different network paths.

C Choice of Transmission Technology

H. System retirement

Any telecommunication transmission channel, whether wired
or wireless, is governed by a range-bandwidth relationship of
its physical medium. As the range of a channel increases, its
transmission bandwidth decreases.

The issue of system retirement in telecommunications may not be
as simple as dismantling and removing the old equipment. Most
often it involves a seamless changeover to a new system. This
could require new buildings, towers, other specialized equipment.
Luckily, modern telecommunication equipment tend to be
physically smaller than their predecessors, hence saving on


Cable-based Transmission Systems: The construction of
metallic cables is either twisted-pair or coaxial. The
former is commonly used in the local loop, and in the
past, as trunks between telephone exchanges. The latter is
used for the transmission of digital information or
baseband video and audio programs.
2) Digital Microwave Radio Systems: A digital microwave
radio (DMR) link can provide the best solution form high
capacity data transmission over distances of up to one
hundred kilometres. based systems. Line-of-sight with the
appropriate Fresnel zone Construction of such a system
takes much less time than cable clearance is a condition of
operation. This calls for towers with the appropriate
heights on both ends of the link. The process of system
engineering of a DMR links starts

Satellite-based Systems: Internet service delivered by
satellites, for example provided by Telstra is offered in
three asymmetrical data speeds as shown in Table II. The
speed may be seen by user as ”slow” and expensive

D. Formulation of technical requirements
The top-level requirements for a telecommunication net-work
are often stated in terms of the extent of the service area
coverage, traffic handling capacity, and quality of service
(QoS). The latter embodies all aspects of network performance,
customer support, and relates very closely to economics and
business objective.
E System planning
Obtaining the best solution to a telecommunication problem is
only possible if the user requirements are well specified and
understood, the telecommunication environment is well
assessed, and the available telecommunication technologies are
well understood.
F System implementation
System implementation in rural and remote areas is often
approached by using prefabricated equipment shelters. Site
preparations, provisioning of electric power, trenching of cable,
and building of antenna mounting structure can be quite
demanding tasks.
G Operation, administration, and maintenance

The activities of operation, administration, and maintenance
(OAM) can be significantly hampered by remoteness from main
operation centers. In particular security of network node sites
and maintenance staff travelling time.

Effective delivery of broadband telecommunication services to
rural and remote communities can be achieved economically
through the application of an appropriate system engineering
approach. The formulation of the user requirements is a critical
step, which must be realistic and takes into consideration the
remoteness and low population density factors.

[1] G. Bannister and C. Cape well, The Australian digital radio
concentrator system-drcs, Rural Telecommunications, 1988,
International Conference on, pp. 56–62.
[2] Feramez, M. (2011). On Delivering Broadband Telecommunication service to Rural and Remote Areas communication,185189.