Making waves to rural’s benefit

11 May 2022

Francis Létourneau, CEO NuRAN Wireless

Francis Létourneau, CEO NuRAN Wireless

”You need a service that only costs the user a few dollars a month and is functional where there is no electrical infrastructure in most cases.”

For over two decades, many have tried bringing connectivity to the rural communities, and many promises remain unfulfilled. The digital status quo remains, and there's little to no progress in this area. Until now! NuRAN Wireless, the new kid in town is making waves, radio waves, to change the face of rural connectivity and here’s the story of how they started succeeding.

From its inception, NuRAN set out to connect the unconnected with a particular focus on rural areas. Many organizations diagnosed the problem, few understood how to solve it, and even less had the grit to remedy it. NuRAN embarked on the rural connectivity journey many years ago, a long and winding road with many obstacles. NuRAN overcame these, each time growing wiser and more experienced. NuRAN is here now, stronger than ever, to help all interested parties bridge the Digital Divide.

Over many years and projects, NuRAN learned the connectivity challenges that plagued rural areas. More importantly, NuRAN realized RAN is the common denominator to set the minimum requirements of all network site infrastructure, equipment, and services. Hence, the design and development of purposely built radio access equipment for rural remains at the company's heart.

Our solution makes it possible to cover lowincome regions while ensuring a profitable model. You need a service that only costs the user a few dollars a month and is functional where there is no electrical infrastructure in most cases. Phones must be able to operate for several days on a single charge,” explains Francis Létourneau, NuRAN’s president and CEO.

NuRAN approached MNOs far and wide to provide the much-coveted RAN equipment to unlock their ability to cover rural areas, or at least that was the belief. The interest was there, but sadly the desire to provide rural connectivity did not outweigh the financial burden. Although MNOs are best poised to provide rural coverage, it does not mean it is easy for them and, to a large extent, is incompatible with their business and operating structure. Contrary to belief, MNOs are not solely responsible for covering rural areas. Nevertheless, pressure is building.

NuRAN realized financing was the missing piece of the puzzle to the connectivity conundrum. Behind NuRAN are unsung heroes in the form of investment organizations and individual investors who have carefully evaluated NuRAN’s solution and supported its mission to bridge the digital divide. NuRAN offers its customers the possibility to finance their projects and, in return, share the profits. Typically, assets are gradually transferred to the customer over ten years, but NuRAN Wireless continues to manage them.

“It all started when I proposed a NaaS model (Network-as-a-Service) during a pitch. One where we would finance and operate the rural networks. It had always been a project, so I decided to test this idea out with the client. Compared to other larger equipment manufacturers, this is what (had tipped the scales in our favour) and now defines our entire business!” explains Francis Létourneau.

Regional development and reconstruction banks financially support NuRAN Wireless. These allow the Quebec equipment manufacturer to assume the costs of deploying its networks. For suppliers, amortizing these projects over several years without massive capital investment at the start is a plus. “This is where we add value since it is also financially advantageous,” says Mr. Létourneau.

NuRAN has not only found a way to make a difference in rural communities, but its solutions meet many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the UN to reduce world poverty and inequality.

“Our company qualifies as an ESG solution (considers environmental, social, and economic criteria, Ed). It is not a coincidence. We are achieving 11 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are telecom hippies,” exclaims Mr. Létourneau.

“It is gratifying to go to bed at night and feel you are changing things,” adds its vice-president responsible for business development, Denis Lambert.

NuRAN Wireless is currently present with ORANGE in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. The project has already commenced, and the deployed towers are providing essential and promising data and penetration rates exceeding all expectations, proving that rural connectivity is crucial. The Quebec company also holds contracts in South Sudan and Namibia with MTN, for a total of 2642 towers under contract with both major MNOs. NuRAN targeted a significant project of 10,000 antennas covering up to 21 countries. “We are currently covering 480,000 people. We hope to cover 55 million people within five years,” says Denis Lambert.

Digital communication is no longer a luxury but an indispensable tool for our way of life. In fact, some countries treat it as a fundamental human right. There’s a new kid in town making waves, radio waves, but not to be taken lightly. Bridging the digital divide is not child's play and not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage and determination, great technical and financial partners, and innovative technologies and business models. NuRAN has set out to change the face of communication in rural areas. Come and join the movement!