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Govt to test white space with Microsoft, IIT

ERNET has received in-principle approval to conduct two pilots

Surabhi Agarwal  |  New Delhi 

India is joining some of the world’s largest nations in testing the white space technology for affordable internet access. White space deploys idle spectrum between television channels and is a cheaper alternative to fibre and wireless technology. Education and Research in Computer Networking (ERNET), the research and development arm of the information technology ministry, has received approval in principle to conduct two pilots of the white space technology with Microsoft and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh. ALSO READ: Govt promises 'non-discriminatory' access to internet Technology companies like Microsoft and Google are aggressively pushing the white space technology. During his recent trip to India, Microsoft chief Satya Nadella pitched it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Neena Pahuja, director-general of ERNET, said the agency wrote to the department of telecommunications on the use of white space one-and-a-half years ago. The technology gained traction after Microsoft adopted it.

MAKING INTERNET AFFORDABLE
  • White space deploys idle spectrum between television channels
  • It is a cheaper alternative to fibre and wireless technology
  • ERNET has received approval in principle to conduct two pilots of the white space technology with Microsoft and the IIT-Bombay, in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh
  • Microsoft and Google are aggressively pushing the white space technology
  • White space has been deployed in the US and in Singapore
  • It's being tested in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and the Philippines
ALSO READ: India's stuttering internet revolution White space has been deployed in the US and in Singapore, and is being tested in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and the Philippines. Some of these countries have low Internet penetration because of terrain that makes laying underground fibre expensive. The ambitious National Optical Fibre Network project, which aims to connect 250,000 panchayats with high-speed broadband, has been marred by delays. The government is trying to revamp it and is also looking at other methods of providing last-mile connectivity. Pahuja said the spectrum needed to transmit signals with white space was between 400 MHz and 700 MHz and did not require many towers. “White space has a radius of 10 km and works with line of sight,” she added. Apart from the pilot with ERNET, Microsoft has sought approval for two other projects in the country. Microsoft India Chairman Bhaskar Pramanik said, “White space can be the affordable answer to last-mile connectivity challenges in India, especially for remote areas that lack electricity.” He added the company was waiting to hear from the government on its requests for running pilots.

ERNET chose Srikakulam to see how the technology will work near the sea. The pilot will be conducted over six months in schools within a 10 km radius. The findings will be submitted to the government, which will decide how to deploy the technology. Large-scale use of white space may require regulatory changes because it uses radio frequencies. Since the frequencies are going waste, the government can give them away free.

First Published: Sat, June 13 2015. 23:08 IST
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