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Quectel encourages PC OEM industry collaboration to address the billions of unconnected children

From inside the technology industry it’s easy to imagine that everyone has some form of internet access but the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted that this isn’t the case. Even in highly-developed markets such as the US, 40% of the population do not have access to broadband connectivity and this is hampering remote learning initiatives that seek to give every child access to the internet. The barriers to this are availability and the cost of infrastructure and devices, but innovative companies are working to address these challenges and improve remote education delivery for the world’s children.

“Everyone’s aware of the impact of COVID with regard to recommendations for social distancing and limiting large gatherings,” says Joe O’Connor, the vice president of worldwide PC OEM sales at Quectel Wireless Solutions. “Many of us are aware, especially those of us that have kids, that this has resulted in school systems scrambling to put together distance learning programmes, which often include outfitting students with connected devices such as a laptop, a tablet, or some type of convertible platform, which enables students to connect with their classroom remotely. Our interactions with the PC, OEM and ODM communities have increased significantly and they are now viewing LTE as one of the preferred connectivity options for the platforms that are developing to meet this increasing demand for low cost connected devices.”

Upcoming 5G technology remains insufficiently deployed and too costly for mass education programmes while LTE can provide the bandwidth that projects need. “We’re extremely bullish in our belief that LTE is a key to solving the connectivity problem we’re facing worldwide, especially since a large number of students have no access to alternatives such as a Wi-Fi network,” adds O’Connor. “I’m amazed at the percentages of populations in developed countries that have no broadband access at all. In the US, for instance, the data that I’ve seen shows roughly 40% of the population do not have access to broadband connectivity. It floored me to learn that percentage would be so high, especially in the US, which obviously is considered a highly developed country.”

The story is the same or worse for other highly-developed markets, for instance, in Europe, and it’s clear that in developing markets coverage levels will be lower. “It’s a huge problem but I believe we’re in a really, really good position to solve it,” he says. “Low cost LTE connectivity is by far the best technology solution to address the broadband access problem worldwide.”

The cost of the LTE module is just one of several key components that need to be addressed to solve this problem. Mobile broadband operators also need to offer competitive rate plans and the operating system, chipset providers and platform manufacturers also need to collaborate to help drive costs down to make devices and connectivity more affordable.

“We’re actively engaging all of these key players and, in some cases, we’re even brokering conversations between them,” adds O’Connor. “Quectel today has a portfolio of low cost LTE solutions that cover all regions of the world and we’re currently developing other solutions that’ll enhance and strengthen that portfolio as we do our best to drive the connectivity costs lower. We realise we can’t drive this market on our own and this is exactly why we’re engaging and encouraging these other industry leaders to contribute. It’s a really good feeling to know we’re doing our part to help enable kids across the globe, get access to learning and improving their lives.”

Quectel has certified products available today that can address the needs worldwide which include CAT4, CAT6, and CAT9 class solutions.  We also have several new programs in progress to add to our existing portfolio.  Quectel is committed to this market and has a strong desire to solve this problem by continuing to invest in developing solutions that meet or exceed the need.

For more insights and discussion on this topic, listen to Joe O’Connor, the vice president of worldwide PC OEM sales at Quectel in our “Build a Smarter World” podcast series