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Microsoft to bring internet to 500K Indian villages, possibly through TV white space

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced, during PM Narendra Modi’s Silicon Valley visit over the weekend, that Microsoft would provide ‘low-cost broadband technology’ to 500,000 villages in India, reports PTI. For this, the company will partner with the Indian Government under the Digital India program.

Nadella added that this could be used across governments and businesses of all sizes, adding that the initiative would drive ‘more affordable products and services and access to opportunity’ for the country. He also mentioned that this week, Microsoft would announce its cloud services operating from India’s data centres.

As of now, there are no details on what kind of technology will be implemented, neither on which villages will be selected and on what basis. However, Nadella tweeted a link with Microsoft’s association with Digital India which detailed two solutions:

– digital cloud for every Indian where it has introduced a health record management system called HealthVault through which a user’s health info can be stored, organised, accessed and shared online via the cloud;

– and internet connectivity through the TV white space: this is licensed but unutilised TV band spectrum and has a much larger range than WiFi, for connecting villages and possibly setting up emergency broadband networks in times of disaster recovery situations. 

Other developments in this space:

Facebook drones: In July, we reported that Facebook was working on delivering internet globally via a combination of drones, satellites and lasers. According to founder Mark Zuckerberg, internet signals will be beamed down from a plane or a satellite flying overhead, which will communicate to earth using accurate lasers to transfer data. Although there are no further details on the current plan, it’s worth noting that Facebook had acquired the UK based aerospace company Ascentra in 2014, to help it build connectivity aircraft. Ascentra had previously build the early versions of Zephyr, an unmanned solar-powered aircraft. 

OneWeb initiative: OneWeb, which recently raised $500 million from Bharti Enterprises, Virgin Atlantic and other investors, plans to provide high speed internet access globally via 648 satellites it intends to launch by 2019. The company, formerly known as WorldVu, plans to provide small user terminals which will connect to these satellites and transmit internet to the surrounding areas through LTE, WiFi, 2G and 3G. The company mentioned that it’s small cell terminals will be 3GPP compatible, enabling them for use with various telecom operators using their existing infrastructure.

Google’s project Loon: In February Google had said it was looking to bring Project Loon, its balloon powered Internet service to India, and was working with the government for the same. Mohammad Gawdat, VP of business Innovation at Google X, said then that the technology giant will be looking at commercial format for the project by 2016. The company had partnered with Australia’s largest telco Telstra to run a pilot of the project with 20 balloons on a part of its 2.6GhZ spectrum.

Image Credit: Flickr user Steve Rhode

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