A tiny chip designed in Bengaluru, the size of a postage stamp, might hold the answer to connecting India’s rural population to the Internet, an ambitious goal being chased by the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft.
The chip, called Pruthvi, powers a system which can use television White Space — or wasted spectrum bandwidth — to beam Internet to scores of households. This innovation by Saankhya Labs, is important in today’s India, where on one hand the government is pushing its ambitious ‘Digital India’ programme and on the other, large technology companies are working on similar goals.
"World over regulatory authorities are using or planning to use this spectrum for their respective connectivity programmes. India can take the lead in both technology and the markets for TV White Space-based broadband delivery.
And how long can the government not push the envelope. It’s got to be expedited sooner than later," said Parag Naik, CEO and cofounder of Saankhya Labs.
Founded in 2007 by Naik, Hemant Mallapur and Vishwakumara Kayargadde, the company has developed a system called Meghdoot, powered by its Pruthvi chip, which can utilise the existing TV White Space bandwidth available in India to provide wireless broadband to remote areas. TV White Space refers to the unused spectrum between active TV channels that are traditionally used for over-the-air transmission using TV towers and rooftop antennas. In India, this mainly refers to the spectrum used by the likes of Prasar Bharti.
The Meghdoot product family consists of a base station and user-side modem that can together provide Wireless Rural Broadband using the TV White Space spectrum from 400 to 800MHz.
The technology does not require line-of-sight, thus ensuring longer range, and can serve up to a radius of 10-15 km depending on antenna tower height and transmit power. The range can also be further increased with more powerful and taller antennas.
The company is soon set to conduct field trials across the country in collaboration with IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi and IIT-Hyderabad. They are also in discussions with Microsoft to do trials at Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
The Meghdoot product line is compliant to the Wi-FAR standard, making the device compatible for use in other countries too. The company is also engaged with partners for trials in the Philippines, the US and Singapore.