China’s economic revolution has transformed the lives of tens of millions of people living in the country’s more industrialized coastal and southern areas, but millions more have been “left behind” in China’s largely agrarian interior. There, they live much like their ancestors have for hundreds of years, on subsistence crops, and in great poverty. Most of the villages in the interior provinces barely have electricity, to mention nothing of phone and Internet connections.
Many young Chinese in these regions — as many as 20 million a year — see their future in the cities, prompting what experts have called the largest urban migration in history. While China has not taken steps to prevent this migration, the authorities are working hard to build infrastructure and industry in the interior, in an attempt to keep as many people as possible there and out of the big cities.
Essential to any modernization effort is the installation of high-speed Internet, but laying down cables in China’s interior would have been very difficult, given the area’s rough terrain. The only option for high-speed internet in much of China is wireless Internet, but even wi-fi is an iffy proposition in rural China because of the great distances involved and, in many areas, hilly and mountainous topography.
10,000 base stations
One solution that has been implemented successfully comes from Israel’s Alvarion, which, via its Wavion unit, makes equipment and applications especially designed for use in rural environments. Alvarion has partnered with China’s Beijing Huasun Unicreate (BHU) to eventually install a total of 10,000 base stations in Liaoning province. The base stations are designed to allow two way-communication even in areas where line-of-sight connections are not possible.
Liaoning Province is situated in the southern part of northeast China and has a total population of 40.9 million citizens, of whom 23.7 million are considered rural and had no telephony or Internet connection to surrounding regions. So far, about 2,500 of the stations have been installed, mostly covering the province’s principle cities, including Shenyang (the province’s capital city), Tieling, Fushun, Chaoyang and Fuxin, and further deployments will allow residents of rural villages and farms to get high-speed Internet.
This isn’t Alvarion’s first foray into the “the boondocks.” The company has set up 4G networks in places like Cameroon, Nigeria, Mozambique, and rural India, as well as in cities in the US and Canada. Alvarion, based in Tel Aviv, was one of the pioneers of wireless Internet, and even claims to hold the world record for the longest wireless network link between two points ever achieved — 310 kilometers (190 miles) from ground to a weather balloon.
Commenting on the project, Tal Meirzon, COO at Alvarion, said that “covering vast areas of rural landscape and being able to connect such a large population with Alvarion’s wi-fi technology, only serves to solidify our commitment to bridging the digital divide and giving access to wi-fi services that improves people’s and communities’ day to day lifestyles.”