A Bengaluru based startup called Saankhya Labs has cracked the code for making the Modi’s government much ambitious project ‘ Digital India’, a reality. They have recognised that in order to make the project successful, they will first have start with the country’s rural population.
In order to convert India into an Internet haven, the startup has designed a postage stamp sized chip, called Pruthvi. The tiny chip holds the potential to power a system which makes use of television’s wasted spectrum bandwidth or White Spaces— to beam internet to a number of rural households.
If successful, with Pruthvi, the Benagluru based startup might be able to beat Silicon Valley heavyweights like Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
Notably in 2013, Google, under its ambitious Project Loon, has tested giant balloons that beams Internet to earth below it which company claims could bring web-surfing to rural and remote corners of the world.
Facebook, on other hand, had recently launched Aquila – a solar powered unmanned plane that beams down internet connectivity while in the sky to provide the luxury of Internet to even the remotest of the remote parts of the world, as part of Facebook’s Internet.org effort.
Recent times have seen these big corporations launching various programs in order to boost and support the Indian government’s Digital India initiative.
Saankhya Labs has gone one step ahead of Google and Facebook by successfully developing a chip which it has named – Pruthvi. This Pruthvi-chip powered system called Meghdoot can utilise the existing TV White Space bandwidth available in the country to provide wireless broadband to remote, rural areas.
TV White Spaces is a term technically used to define the unused spectrum (50 – 860 MHz) between active TV channels that are usually used for over-the-air transmission using rooftop antennas and TV towers. In India, this is mainly done by Prasar Bharti.
According to the company, TV White Space Communications is the most preferred wireless alternative for long distance communication. A single base station can reach households that are as far away as 10km – 30km depending on antenna height.
A single 8 MHz channel can provide a data rate of 30 Mbps which can be shared by about 15 users (2 Mbps bandwidth per user) simultaneously. As the number of users increase, additional base stations with directional antennas can be used or more frequencies can be assigned. Additional bandwidth per user can be configured by software. In the future, channel bonding/aggregation techniques will be used to increase the data speed beyond 30 Mbps or to increase the number of users that can be served by one base station. The time to put up the TV White Space network is also shorter compared to other options.
Since the Meghdoot product line matches the Wi-FAR standard, The company is also contemplating conducting trials in the US, the Philippines and Singapore along with a few partners.
The Meghdoot product consists of two things, a base station and a user-side modem that makes use of the TV White Space spectrum from 400 to 800MHz in order to provide Wireless Rural Broadband.
By not requiring the line-of-sight, the technology ensures longer range, and can serve up to a radius of 10-15km depending on the transmit power and antenna tower height. The range can further be increased with the help of more taller and powerful antennas. Whole Pruthvi and customer base platform has low operative cost comparing to other internet providing platform such WiFi, 3G and what has been tested by facebook or Google.
Saankhya Labs is founded in the year 2007 by Parag Naik, Hemant Mallapur and Vishwakumara Kayargadde, is currently gearing up to conduct trails all across the country. It has collaborated with esteemed Indian institutions like IIT-Hyderabad, IIT-Delhi and IIT-Bombay for the same. Further, there are also in the midst of discussions with technology giant, Microsoft to carry out field trials at Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.