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General Studies 3 >> Science & Technology

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1. Context
Even though cellular networks seem omnipresent, their deployment and use vary significantly between urban and rural areas. According to the latest Telecom Subscription Data, urban tele-density in the country is 127% while rural tele-density is 58%
2.What are access and core networks?

Access Network (AN)

The Access Network (AN) is comprised of base stations that deliver wireless connectivity to mobile devices within a specific geographic region known as the coverage area. Network operators typically deploy these base stations throughout the target region. These stations are often recognizable as towers equipped with antenna boxes at the top.

Core Network (CN)

The Core Network (CN) in a cellular network contains equipment that facilitates connectivity to other networks, including the Internet. Unlike the base stations in the AN, the CN operates from a central location, often situated far from any base stations. The CN is connected to a base station via an optical fiber link known as the backhaul. For data from a user's device to reach its intended destination, such as the Internet or another user's device, it must traverse both a base station and the CN. Even if two users are in close proximity and connected to the same or nearby base stations, their data must still pass through the central CN. The CN is crucial for supporting user mobility, a fundamental aspect of cellular networks


3.Problems with Rural Connectivity


  • Although cellular networks appear ubiquitous, their deployment and utilization differ greatly between urban and rural regions, particularly in developing nations like India. According to the latest Telecom Subscription Data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the country's urban tele-density is at 127%, while rural tele-density is at 58%.
  • This means that, on average, an urban user has more than one mobile connection (1.27), whereas only about one in two rural users (0.58) has a connection. This data highlights the digital divide between urban and rural areas, a trend seen in many other developing countries as well.
  • One major factor hindering the expansion and use of cellular networks in rural areas is the relatively lower income levels.
  • Many rural residents find mobile services unaffordable. Additional challenges include lower population density, populations spread across clusters (villages) separated by large empty spaces, and remoteness.
  • Extending fiber infrastructure to a remote village, such as one in the Himalayas, to connect a base station can be neither cost-effective nor straightforward.
  • These characteristics of rural areas necessitate a communication system capable of covering large geographic areas efficiently. However, research focused on these unique factors has been limited.
  • Most current cellular networks are designed to serve urban populations in economically developed countries, with technologies like 5G aiming to provide data rates of 10 Gbps and 1 ms latency. In contrast, rural connectivity remains significantly underdeveloped
4. What is the IEEE 2061-2024 standard?
  • The IEEE 2061-2024 standard, often referred to as the Frugal 5G network, is designed to create a low-mobility and energy-efficient network for affordable broadband access. This standard aims to provide high-speed internet connectivity, particularly targeting underserved areas.
  • Key features include a wireless middle-mile network, an access network, and a core network, optimized to be cost-effective and scalable.
  • The focus of IEEE 2061-2024 is to bridge the digital divide by ensuring that rural and remote regions can access high-quality broadband services, addressing both technological and economic challenges
  • The IEEE-2061 standard introduces the use of a multi-hop wireless middle-mile network to extend connectivity to areas lacking optical-fiber links. This approach provides cost-effective connectivity over long distances, avoiding the high costs and deployment challenges associated with optical fibers.
  • An IEEE-2061 network can flexibly employ various technologies such as satellites or long-range Wi-Fi for the middle-mile segment.
  • Unlike 4G/5G networks where Internet connectivity is solely through the core network (CN), the IEEE-2061 Access Network (AN) offers a direct and alternate path to the Internet.
  • The CN is essential in cellular networks to support user mobility, but many mobile network users, particularly in rural areas, are stationary.
  • Therefore, a direct Internet connection from the AN, bypassing the centralized CN, would be more optimal for these users.
  • Furthermore, an IEEE-2061 network can facilitate direct communication between nearby users within the AN, bypassing the CN, similar to traveling directly from one nearby city to another without detouring through a distant hub.
  • In summary, the IEEE 2061-2024 is the second IEEE standard emerging from Professor Karandikar’s research lab at IIT Bombay, following IEEE 1930.1-2022, which focuses on "beyond 5G networks" and also incorporates some of their research ideas.
  • If implemented, IEEE 2061 could provide affordable connectivity to rural populations. Its innovative concepts, including the CN bypass and integrated AN control, could pave the way for a scalable mobile network in the future
5.Way Forward
Mobile devices have become an integral part of our lives. We use them to communicate with our friends and family, conduct financial transactions through UPI, connect to the Internet, etc. The connectivity for these devices is enabled via a cellular (mobile) wireless network. A cellular network, such as a 5G network, includes a set of network equipment connected by communication links. They work together to move data between different devices and to other networks such as the Internet. A cellular network can be divided into two sub-networks: the Access Network (AN) and the Core Network (CN).


Source: The Hindu

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