Google’s got a bunch of nifty side projects going on that aim to make the internet accessible for all. Loon is one example, while the company’s drive to bring high-speed internet to Indian railway stations made some good headway before being discontinued. Now, the search giant wants to use light beams to bring the internet to some underserved regions in India. And to make it possible, Google is reportedly teaming up with a couple of local telcos.
For a bit of context, Alphabet’s X lab devised a way to relay internet signals through wireless optical communications links (or light beams, to make it sound less intimidating) under Project Taara. The technology is being piloted in parts of India and Africa for a few years, but Google recently made strides in sub-Saharan Africa by working with regional operators to reach more localities. ET's new report says that Google might be planning to do something similar in India as well.
Following an extended test run in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Google is reportedly looking to partner with India’s two biggest wireless operators — Airtel and Jio — likely to deploy the technology in more similarly underserved regions. It’s still not official that Google will go ahead with this plan — these tests are still in the very early stages — so don’t expect mass deployments across the country anytime soon.
Google says this technology is suitable for irregular terrains where laying fiber cable can be a challenge. With light beams, the company could send links to a connected tower up to 20km (~12.5 miles) away with data speeds as high as 20Gbps. This optical link uses the same principle as the usual fiber optics cable to transfer data using light signals but ports it into the wireless form. However, there is one big problem with light beams: they cannot pass through physical obstacles, something radio waves can (unless it’s mmWave 5G).
It’s worth noting that Google recently invested a big chunk of its $10 billion fund committed to India in Reliance Jio to bolster its presence in the budget Android market. We’ll have to wait for official word from Google to find out if today's report holds any water, and what role Jio and Airtel will play if Project Taara is set to be rolled out to more people.
- Economic Times (paywall)