A Key 6G Challenge and Opportunity - Connecting the Base of the Pyramid: A Survey on Rural Connectivity

2020-02-11T15:34:46Z (GMT) by Elias Yaacoub Mohamed-Slim Alouini
Providing connectivity to around half of the world population living in rural or underprivileged areas is a tremendous challenge, but also a unique opportunity. Access to the internet would provide the population living in these areas a possibility to progress on the educational, health, environment, and business levels. In this paper, a survey of technologies for providing connectivity to rural areas, and that can help address this challenge, is provided. Although access/fronthaul and backhaul techniques are discussed in the paper, it is noted that the major limitation for providing connectivity to rural and underprivileged areas is the cost of backhaul deployment. In addition, energy requirements and cost efficiency of the studied technologies are analyzed. In fact, the challenges faced for deploying an electricity network, as a prerequisite for deploying communication networks, are huge in these areas and they are granted an important share of the discussions in this paper. Furthermore, typical application scenarios in rural areas are discussed, and several country-specific use cases are surveyed. The main initiatives by key international players aiming to provide rural connectivity are also described. Moreover, directions for future evolution of rural connectivity are outlined in the paper. Although there is no single solution that can solve all rural connectivity problems, building gradually on the current achievements in order to reach ubiquitous connectivity, while taking into account the particularities of each region and tailoring the solution accordingly, seems to be the most suitable path to follow.