Small chip harnesses White Space to solve rural coverage issues

(Image Credit: Bill Bourne)

Google might be looking into extravagant methods of solving rural broadband coverage problems, but a small chip designed by Saankhya Labs in Bengaluru could be a more feasible solution in the short-term of connecting more people in remote communities to the rest of the world. 

The chip, called Pruthvi, beams an internet connection to households which can receive a TV signal but are unable to benefit from a fixed broadband infrastructure. Pruthvi harnesses unused TV spectrum – known as White Space – to bring more people online than ever before. 

Saankhya Labs, developers of Pruthvi, won the 40th ELCINA-EFY 2015 Award for "Excellence in Innovation" earlier this month. The company is part of the WhiteSpace Alliance, an organisation aiming to speed-up the deployment of "TV band" internet access.

The technology does not require line-of-sight, thus ensuring longer range

WhiteSpace is the creator of industry standards for broadband delivery over TV White Space such as the Wi-FAR™ and WSAConnect™ interoperability specifications which Saankhya Labs use for their Pruthvi chip. “Development of technical specifications and interoperability testing provides significant time-to-market and product reliability benefits to our members,” said Dr. Apurva N. Mody, Chairman of WhiteSpace Alliance. 

“This is accelerating availability of cost-effective broadband access solutions in underserved regions of the world.” 

Pruthvi is the size of a postage stamp and can be used as part of a complete system called Meghdoot which consists of a base station and user-side modem that can provide Wireless Rural Broadband over the TV White Space spectrum ranging from 400 to 800MHz. The technology does not require line-of-sight, thus ensuring longer range, and can serve up to a radius of 10-15km depending on antenna tower height and transmit power. If this range is not enough, it can be boosted using more powerful and taller antennas. 

The system will soon be going into field trials in collaboration with IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi and IIT-Hyderabad. Saankhya Labs is also in discussions with Microsoft to do trials at Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh. Beyond India, the Meghdoot system could be deployed in other countries thanks to its compliance with the Wi-FAR standard making it compatible for use elsewhere. 

Do you think Pruthvi could help to solve rural broadband coverage issues? Let us know in the comments.

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