Alphabet Inc’s X research division has announced in its blogpost that it has signed an agreement with Andhra Pradesh state government to deploy its newly developed technology- Free Space Optical Communications, (FSOC)- which beams high-speed wireless internet over long distances — just like fiber optic cable, but without laying cable.
The company claims, since there is no cable, this means there is “none of the time, cost, and hassle involved in digging trenches or stringing cable along poles”. FSOC boxes can simply be placed kilometers apart on roofs or towers, with the signal beamed directly between the boxes to traverse common obstacles like rivers, roads and railways. This technology will reportedly provide connections of up to 20 Gbps (gigabits per second) over long distances.
As part of the agreement, Andhra Pradesh will install 2000 boxes to provide fast internet connection in rural and remote areas across the state. The deployment will begin next year, for which X will have a small team of engineers and experts based in Andhra Pradesh.
Baris Erkmen, Free Space Optical Communications Lead of X, says in his blogpost that less than 20% of the 53 million people in Andhra Pradesh currently have access to broadband connectivity. With this project, Andhra Pradesh aims to connect 12 million households by 2019.
FSOC is part of X’s Project Loon, which 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 partners with telecom operators to share cellular network and enable people to connect to the balloon directly. The signal is then passed across the balloon network and back down to the global Internet on Earth. Project Loon got an in-principle approval from the Indian government for running a pilot in India in December 2015.
Google’s Internet projects in India
Google plans to launch 200 WiFi hotspots in Pune under the Smart Cities mission. The company also launched Google Station, a public WiFi platform which allows other venues and locations to become partners with the company to provide high speed Internet. This was a add on upon Google’s tie-up with the Indian Railways and RailTel to provide high speed WiFi coverage at stations across India. Also, note that in March this year, Indian Railways said that it plans to roll out free WiFi in 709 Railway Stations by March 2020- without any capital investment from Railway’s side. MediaNama had pointed out that it meant that Google basically funding the WiFi rollout for the government. (Read more here)