A research group at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) has set up India’s first pilot test-bed which uses unused TV spectrum to provide broadband Internet connectivity. It could be used by the NDA government’s flagship Digital India programme to enhance broadband Internet connectivity to rural areas at a cheaper cost.
The project taps unused frequencies allocated to broadcasting and exploits this “white space” spectrum to provide broadband Internet connectivity in rural areas.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) has also granted an experimental licence to IITB to conduct tests in TV’s UHF band.
“The application to get licence had been submitted well before the announcement of Digital India Initiative. The new government had just taken over at that time,” said Professor Abhay Karandikar, who is leading this project and who in 2010 co-authored a paper underlining the potential of shared use of India’s TV “white space” spectrum.
The pilot test-bed has been deployed by the IIT team in seven villages — Khamloli, Bahadoli, Dhuktan, Ganje, Pargaon, Haloli and Maswan — spread over 30 sqkm in coastal Palghar district about 80 km from Mumbai.
Under this project, the WiFi hotspots for testing Internet connectivity have been deployed at a few locations across the villages and these are connected to the Khamloli tower of Tata Teleservices using TV band radios.
To access the Internet, the villagers have been provided with low cost WiFi tablets by IITB and have received the help of an NGO (PUKAR) in educating the villagers about the use of Internet.
“There are clusters of villages which are administered by a gram panchayat. So there are around 6 lakh villages which come under the jurisdiction of these 2.5 lakh gram panchayats. It is very difficult and also expensive to connect these clusters of villages by optic fibre. Our project addresses this problem,” Prof. Karandikar said.
This technology is capable of providing coverage within the radius of one to 10 km from the access network such as WiFi zones, access points and clusters to an optic fibre point of presence.