Rural broadband player AirJaldi and education startup Zaya Learning Labs are recipients of Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative grants from India, the company announced on its blog. Microsoft started the Affordable Access Initiative last November bring affordable Internet access to underserved markets around the world.
Microsoft added that it is taking learnings from their TV White Spaces work and building local solutions for last mile delivery of Internet.
AirJaldi was started in 2009 in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. As indicated by this story in NextBigWhat, AriJaldi purchases bandwidth from telecom players like Airtel and distributes it to its clients via the delicensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz/ 58 GHz range, also known as the WiFi range. The company sets up relays in rural areas which can then connect to a WiFi network over distances. Clients connect to relays through Customer Premise Equipment (CPEs), which are made of small and powerful routers.
AirJaldi owns and runs nine networks in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It says that it has more than 100,000 users and 60,000 accounts on their networks.
Zaya Learning Labs
Zaya is an education tech startup and its product Class Cloud is a portable, wireless device which can store, access, and deploy curriculum and content in classrooms with intermittent connectivity or no connectivity. Class Cloud also analyzes content’s usage so that teachers can ensure content meets the educational needs of individual learners.
Zaya is backed by the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, an investment fund within Pearson that invests in education startups across emerging markets. The company currently works with 90 schools and has trained around 400 teachers. Its pricing models can be seen here.
Other rural Internet connectivity initiatives
– In December 2015, Google’s balloon powered Internet service Project Loon has got an in-principle approval from the Indian government for running a pilot in India. Project Loon is a network of balloons which float at about 20 kilometres above in the stratosphere which will help in providing Internet access to the most remote corners of the world. Google has teamed up with telecommunications companies to share cellular spectrum which enables people to connect to the balloon network directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices.
– In July 2015, 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.
– As part of the Digital India programme, the National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) was piloted in Kerala’s Idukki district in January. The NOFN, the government’s ambitious high-speed rural broadband service, aims to link 600 million citizens in rural India across 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats and 631 districts to the Internet.
Image credit: AirJaldi