This is a contributed piece by Francis Letourneau, COO of Nuran Wireless
San Juan Yaee is a seven-hour bus ride from Oaxaca City. With a population of around 1600, most of whom are subsistence farmers, the community had been left behind by the digital revolution. Telmex, the dominant telecoms operator in the country, knows that it will never be able to make a profit from communities like San Juan Yaee and is not interested in building a network there ever.
Consequently, the people of San Juan Yaee had phones that they could only use if they walked to the top of the steepest hill, 20 minutes away, to catch a signal from a distant network. In the village itself the phones were only useful as cameras or paperweights.
Tired of waiting, and with the advice and guidance of Rhizomatica, the people of San Juan Yaee invested ninety thousand pesos – about US$6,000 – to buy equipment from Canadian company NuRAN Wireless. NuRAN’s GSM LiteCell is a low-power, low-OPEX GSM base station, designed specifically to provide voice services use in rural and low-density, lower-ARPU urban areas in emerging markets.
NuRAN has filled a large gap in the telecoms market. Traditional telephone technology developed in the west was designed for densely populated, prosperous markets. It is not suitable for the unique challenges posed by remote rural areas; it is too expensive, uses too much power and needs highly skilled engineers to deploy and maintain.