WiFi Leap for Rural Communications

Two articles about a breakthrough by Media Lab Asia in WiFi. Their researches have managed to get 3 Mbps+ across a 37-km (22 miles) hop in rural India, as part of its Digital Gangetic Project. This bodes well for the use of WiFi for rural connectivity. MLA also has been working on DakNet, which uses a mobile van with a WiFi hub to provide intermittent connectivity across villages.

Financial Express: “A research team of Media Lab Asia (MLA) has created an 85 km-long multi hop wireless corridor between Kanpur and Lucknow, called the Digital Gangetic Plain, using 802.11b protocol and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. This would mean that if the project could be commercially implemented, the 802.11b protocol — that is primarily used for indoor applications within an area of 500 meters — can be used for providing outdoor wireless connectivity for longer distances…The range of the 802.11b protocol has been extended by modifying the existing telecommunication equipment available off the shelf to keep the cost of infrastructure low and using only one base station on the 75-km stretch between Kanpur and Lucknow. The project has been named ‘Digital Gangetic Plain’ as the corridor cuts across the river Ganga and connects villages in the surrounding area.”

Economic Times: “Stretching the 300m-efficient 802.11b technology to 20 km through directional antennas, MediaLab has created a proof of concept link between Saroha village of UP and its research centre at IIT Kanpur in what it calls the Digital Gangetic Plain experiment. The voice link from Saroha terminates at the IIT Kanpur PABX and then connects normally to the outside world. Initially, the 54 km stretch is covered in three hops between IIT-K and Mandhana village, Safipur and Saroha. Now a single-hop 37-km link has been set up. Work is on to scale it up to a 4 Mbps Kanpur-Lucknow corridor. The link, the first of its kind in the world, will be used as a test-bed for affordable rural communication.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.