Foundation Projects

Broadband Internet access for rural areas of Vietnam using WiMAX technology via television broadcasting infrastructure

Bac Ha International University

The Internet has grown tremendously fast since its birth to reach one billion users worldwide, and it has deeply penetrated the daily activities of those who use it. It would be unthinkable to the researchers of this project and many others to work without the Internet.

During the past decade, the use of the Internet and ICT services have rapidly increased from less than 5% to the current 23.7% in Vietnam. However, as is the case in many other developing countries in the Asia Pacific region, Vietnam faces a severe digital divide among its regions and social groups. The digital divide, which refers to people with regular, effective access to ICT and those without this access, has contributed to greater economical and social gaps between the poor and the affluent. This gap directly relates to the discrepancy in income and education levels, including literacy between urban and rural areas.

For this reason, an economical, efficient, and sustainable infrastructure that has a capability to deliver the Internet to large user groups in challenging rural areas is needed.

Recent statistics show that the majority of the current 23.7% of Vietnamese who frequently use the Internet are located almost exclusively in Vietnam’s big cities, such as Ha noi, Ho Chi Minh, Hai phong, Hue, and Da nang. The three major reasons that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) using conventional cable-based technology do not expand into rural regions are:

  1. Geographic accessibility: dense wood and mountain areas cause difficulties in setting up networks and operating equipment;
  2. Demographic indication: low population densities require large network coverage, hence increasing initial setup and operating costs; and
  3. Economic development: low demand and purchasing power reduce profit and increase investment return period.

These are the reasons we have identified for the widening digital divide in Vietnam, as well as the low growth rate of Internet users in rural areas.

The key objective of the project is to experimentally validate the innovative broadband Internet access using WiMAX technology via TV UHF broadcasting infrastructure for rural areas of Vietnam. A positive outcome of this project will provide the Vietnamese government and ISPs with the most economical, efficient, and sustainable Internet and ICT infrastructure possible. The innovative approach that we are applying is to combine WiMAX technology with TV broadcasting. It allows WiMAX to be “piggy-backed” on the existing TV broadcasting in the frequency range where TV programs are not available and frequency channels are not currently used. In addition, it promises an operating cost sharing between television industry and ISPs, eliminating the initial setup cost of network equipment (i.e. base station site construction and/or leasing), which ISPs normally incur. Operating at lower UHF bands allows a larger coverage area per base station.