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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Microsoft: Our technology better than Facebook, Google's for last mile connectivity............


NEW DELHI: Microsoft India chairman Bhaskar Pramanik has taken a pot shot at rivals Google and Facebook over their proposals to tackle the country's last-mile broadband connectivity problem, and said the technology that the software giant is offering is potentially more effective to take high-speed internet to remote villages.

India has become the latest battleground for the three US majors, as they aim for the telecom department's contract to provide last-mile connectivity as part of the over Rs 20,000 crore national broadband project. Google is experimenting with a network of helium balloons to relay signals to places that are hard to reach for traditional networks, while Facebook is considering using drones. Microsoft's technology, called TV White-Space, uses unused spectrum in frequencies used by TV channels to carry data.

"I can't imagine a drone hovering over the Earth for long periods of time and a balloon not drifting away, while here you can use solar power, an antenna that is used for simple TV broadcast and a device or router which is powered by solar which can provide the connectivity ," Pramanik said.

The local unit of the Redmond, Washington-based company has sought a licence from the telecom department to deploy a working example of the technology in Bangalore as proof of concept.

Facebook declined to comment, while Google did not reply to an email seeking comment.

Google's Project Loon aims to provide 'inexpensive' internet access across India through a network of helium-filled solar-powered balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 32 km. Pilot projects are underway in New Zealand, California and Brazil.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has previously played down the effectiveness of Google's balloons, saying they have a shorter life than drones and can't survive the rigour of weather patterns. "This means drones have more endurance than balloons, while also being able to have their location precisely controlled," he had said in a white paper on drones earlier this year.

Facebook's Connectivity Lab is developing massive, yet light, solarpowered drones which will be able to fly for years at a time and serve as large connectivity hubs, the division's engineering director Yael Maguire had said. The first of these drones may well be deployed in India, it was reported earlier this month.

"So there are many choices we have as a nation — we can use 2G, 3G or 4G, we can talk about balloons or drones. But my belief is that this is one other technology which can be used," Pramanik said. Microsoft is not talking about running a network, but more about creating a technology meant for emerging markets, he said. "We'd like government, nations and telecom companies to use it."

The radio interface developed by Microsoft functions like Wi-Fi router on a bigger scale. It provides wireless connectivity across a 10 km radius with speeds of up to 16 Mbps, a much larger area and speeds than the typical routers set up for commercial use today .

Using White-Fi and dynamic spectrum, there is possibility of extending the network coverage by 10 kms from each of the 250,000 touch points and then connect another router and extend it by another 10 kms, effectively blanketing the country, Pramanik added.

Under an ambitious Rs 1.13 lakh crore 'Digital India' initiative, the government plans to use the national optic fibre network project to deliver e-services in areas such as health, education to every nook and corner of the country. The network, which is positioned to form the backbone of the Digital India programme, will be deployed only at the gram panchayat level. Reaching the end consumer homes, schools, hospitals and other institutions may still require wireless technology, especially in hard-to reach areas.

Zuckerberg, who visited India recently, reportedly had expressed Facebook's desire to deploy alternative last-mile connectivity technology through drones and satellite communications. Google and Microsoft have also pitched their technologies.

While tech giants vie for a share of the massive project, experts say a single solution may not be the sole answer to providing last mile connectivity. "It is possible that a combination of multiple technologies will be required to ensure ubiquitous internet access, as one single type of technology may reach only a select area or people," said an industry insider who did not want to be named.