Although there has been a significant growth in cellular mobile communications, broadband penetration in rural areas still lags behind. Further, though there is unused TV band spectrum, which are essentially unused TV channels, that could be used to a range of internet applications.
IIT Bombay, for the first time, is using this space to provide broadband access to rural areas. The pilot test-bed has been deployed by the IIT Bombay team in seven villages of Palghar district in Maharashtra — Khamloli, Bahadoli, Dhuktan, Ganje, Pargaon. Haloli and Maswan — spread over an area of 30 square kilometre. Spectrum describes the range of frequencies that can be used by wireless devices to transmit and receive information.
“The research group at IIT Bombay has set up India’s first pilot test-bed in TV white space for rural broadband access. In telecommunications, white spaces refer to frequencies made available for unlicensed use at locations where the spectrum is not being used by licensed services, such as television broadcasting. The test bed deploys indigenously developed technology prototypes and takes advantage of underutilised TV band spectrum to provide wireless broadband access,” said IIT Bombay Prof and project in-charge Abhay Karandikar. Work on the project has been going on for the last two years.
In the past, TV white space trials have been undertaken in US, UK, Japan and Singapore. But it is the first time that the TV white space feasibility for broadband access is being tested in India.
“In US and UK, where large-scale trials of TV white space have been conducted, availability of TV white space spectrum is limited. In India, about 100 MHz of TV band spectrum in ultra high frequency (UHF) band is available. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Government of India, granted experimental license to IIT Bombay to conduct tests in TV band and it is the first time that such experiments are being conducted in India on this scale,” he said.
While Khamloli is located about 80 km from Mumbai, WiFi hotspots for testing internet connectivity have been deployed at few locations across the villages and these WiFi hotspots are connected to a ‘fiber point of presence’ at Khamloli tower using TV band radios.
The test-bed has been deployed in partnership with a leading service provider.
According to the team, this technology is ideal for use in rural areas where wired infrastructure is not cost effective to deploy. It is capable of providing coverage within a radius of one to 10 kilometre to enable seamless connectivity from the access network such as WiFi zones, access points and clusters to an optical fiber point of presence. “In order to reach these distances, TV ultra high frequency spectrum is ideally suited as it will not require expensive infrastructure such as high towers and strict line-of-sight,” said Prof Animesh Kumar, who is also associated with the project.