Microsoft to use ‘white space’ tech for free internet in India

  • Arnab Mitra, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 10, 2014 02:22 IST

Microsoft India is ready with a plan to provide free last-mile internet connectivity across the country.

It proposes to use the “white space” – the unused spectrum between two TV channels – to provide free connectivity to large sections of the Indian population.

“Wifi has a range of only about 100 metres, whereas the 200-300 MHz spectrum band available in the white space can reach up to 10 km,” said Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman, Microsoft India. “This spectrum belongs mainly to Doordarshan and the government and is not used at all. We have sought clearance for a pilot project in two districts.”

If the pilots are successful, the project can be quickly rolled out across the country and could give a huge boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative, which proposes to use technology to deliver governance to every citizen of India, even in remote areas.

“The challenge is the lack of digital infrastructure across India. This initiative addresses this challenge in a cost-effective manner and creates an eco-system that will benefit everyone, including manufacturers of routers and other technology devices, other technology companies, besides Microsoft,” Pramanik said.

Microsoft’s initiative also take forward the Prime Minister’s slogan of “IT + IT = IT”, which is Indian talent plus information technology equals India tomorrow and also give a push to the ‘Make in India’ campaign by encouraging the manufacture of equipment locally.

Microsoft, which was part of an international consortium that included BT, Nokia and BBC, conducted the most widespread field trials on white space-based Internet connectivity in Cambridge, US, in 2011. The technology hasn’t been widely adopted anywhere in the world, but experts believe it can lead to a spurt in broadband connectivity in countries such as India. Engineers at Microsoft development centres in India have adapted this unlicenced technology for this country.

The ambitious Digital India project envisages providing broadband connectivity across the country by connecting 250,000 gram panchayats via optic fibre cables, thereby providing digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen, digital governance and services on demand and digitally empowering all citizens.

The plan was approved by the Modi Cabinet on August 30.

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