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Nov 21, 2001

Wired and wireless soultions needed to bridge ‘digital divide’

© Reuse this One of the best solutions assisting developing countries in bridging the digital divide is using ‘wiloptics’, says Harris Technologies vice-president technology Dr Kwame Boakye.

Wireline technologies, such as cable modems, are suitable for developed infrastructures, as opposed to broadband wireless access becoming competitive where there is no existing usable wireline infrastructure, as in many developing countries.

“Where wireline technologies already exist, modest incremental investment can be made to gain significant capability, which is generally true for developed economies where there is a reasonable telecommunications infrastructure,” explains Boakye.

Such an advantage does, generally, not exist in developing economies.

For them to take advantage of wireline technologies new cable must be laid – a time-consuming and expensive proposition.

Given the great bandwidth capacity of optical fibre, it would be the technology of choice, acknowledges Boakye.

However, it does not accommodate mobility, and therefore needs to complemented by some form of wireless technology.

Wireless technology provides ease and rapid deployment that accelerates the generation of a return on investment,” he says.

Therefore, combining properties of optical fibre and wireless form a compelling value proposition for new infrastructure, called wilopties, he states.

At the beginning when the bandwidth requirement is not extreme, the network can be based on wireless, both for access and the backbone.

As the infrastructure develops to the point where wireless can no longer provide adequate bandwidth, then those links get replaced by optical fire, reports Boakye.

When comparing developing countries, access to the Internet, Africa indeed lags far behind its counterparts in growth.

In July last year, Africa had three-million people on-line – a figure which has grown to 4,2- million in August this year, reports Kwame.

However, Latin America had 13,3-million people on-line in July last year, growing to 15,3-million in August this year, with Asia and the Pacific region eclipsing both with 86,5-million people on-line in July last year, jumping to 144-million in less than a year – this growth mostly because of increased investment.

Only 1% of the populations in Africa and the Middle-East have access to the Internet.

Africa is, in general, exceptionally hard-hit when it comes to telecommunications infrastructure.

Rwanda has only 15 000 fixed telephone lines, 11 000 mobile users and a meagre thousand people have access to the Internet.

Egypt and South Africa are the most advanced, with the Northern African country boasting 5-million fixed-lines, one-million mobile users and 300 000 people having access to the Internet.

South Africa, with a smaller population than Egypt, has about 5,5-million fixed lines, 5,3-million mobile users, and 1,8-million Internet users.

Boakye emphasises the need for especially Internet-access, as he calls it a platform to transform everyday life dramatically, redefining the nature, scope and dynamics of industrial competition.

However, with most of the world still hear its first dial-tone, reaching this competitiveness may still be a long way off.

Irma Venter Engineering news staff writer © Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
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