Microsoft pushes hard for White-fi tech to link rural areas
Committed to setting up data centres in India to promote the cloud-first mobile-first strategy
Satya Nadella, global CEO of Microsoft, urged telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to allow the company to pilot its 'White-Fi' technology to provide internet connectivity in remote villages in the country at a meeting in New Delhi yesterday.
Microsoft's White-Fi, or television White-Space technology, works like Wi-Fi on a bigger scale to provide wireless connectivity across a 10 km radius at a speed of up to 16 mbps, by using chunks of airwaves lying between spectrum kept untouched by broadcasters to avoid interference or disturbance between transmissions.
Nadella, who is in the country on Christmas holidays, also discussed with Prasad other ways in which Microsoft could partner in the government's Digital India initiative. He was accompanied by the firm's India head Bhaskar Pramanik. During his visit, Nadella also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Nadella said Microsoft was committed to setting up data centres in India to promote the cloud first and mobile first strategy as a means to empower every citizen and business in the country.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was the first global CEO to speak to the telecom minister for deploying alternate technology - in its case, solar drones - for last mile connectivity, followed by Google, which offered to provide inexpensive internet access across India through a network of helium-filled balloons, and now Microsoft. While Facebook and Google are yet to put in written requests to the government, Nadella on Friday told Prasad his company is eagerly awaiting the government's approval to begin the pilot.
The White-Fi technology has already been successfully implemented in the US and Singapore and is being tested in Kenya, the Philippines, South Africa and Tanzania, among others. It works on chunks of unused spectrum available in broadcasting bands in the lower frequencies from 200 MHz to 700 MHz.
The government's Rs.1130 billion Digital India initiative envisages delivering e-services such as health and education to every nook and corner of the country over broadband by 2019.
Despite the government laying a nationwide optic fibre network, reaching homes, schools, hospitals and other institutions may require wireless technology, especially in hard-to-reach areas. This is where the technology giants such as Facebook and Microsoft hope to deploy their respective technologies.
According to Microsoft, it costs less than Rs 1 million to install a White-Space technology router.
From Economic Times and Business Standard