While various states in India are increasingly developing Wi-Fi connectivity at railway stations across the country, Uttarakhand has used a novel new way of bringing connectivity to remote areas. The mountainous state in north India has launched a project that will use hot-air balloons to deliver Wi-Fi connectivity and internet to remote areas in the state. The rugged nature of the topography of much of the state means that it can be very difficult to bring internet connectivity the traditional way.
According to a report by the Times Of India, the technology was unveiled in Uttarakhand’s state capital Dehradun in the presence of Trivendra Singh Rawat, the Chief Minister of the state. The technology has been developed as a result of a collaboration between Uttarakhand’s ITDA (Information and Technology Development Agency) and IIT Bombay, one of the premier institutes for education in technology-related fields in India.
देहरादून के IT पार्क में एरोस्टेट तकनीक (बैलून टेक्नोलॉजी) का शुभारंभ किया। @UttarakhandITDA और @iitbombay द्वारा संचालित तकनीक को संचार सेवाओं में प्रयोग किया जाएगा। जंगलों की आग व आपदा जैसे हालातों में यह तकनीक, संचार सुविधा प्रदान करने व आकाशीय निगरानी में सहायक साबित होगी pic.twitter.com/hAHtscEDi4
— Trivendra S Rawat (@tsrawatbjp) June 8, 2018
The technology is a lot like Google’s Project Loon, which uses the physics of hot-air balloon technology to navigate to a remote location, and then beam internet connectivity down using directional antennae. The antennae are powered on the balloon itself, and connect wirelessly to receive internet signals from satellites or ground-based broadcasting systems.
This particular balloon is said to be capable of broadcasting Wi-Fi to anyone in a 7.5km range of the balloon, with speeds of up to 5MBPS. The balloon is also capable of remaining afloat for 14 days at a time, and will be available for use in remote areas for free initially.
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The device cost Rs 50 lakh to develop, and it can also be used to assist rescue operations during emergencies, similar to the Kedarnath flooding of 2013 which took place in the state. A camera attached to the balloon, as well as enabling Wi-Fi connectivity, could enable surveillance of remote areas in emergencies, and aid connectivity during these times.
In comparison, other states are relying on Wi-Fi connectivity at railway stations across the country to boost internet connectivity. India’s extensive railway network means that much of the population is close to a railway station, and can use free or affordable connectivity at these locations. Google itself provides connectivity at 400 stations in India through its partnership with Railtel.