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Microsoft plans to pilot broadband-connectivity project in Bengaluru

After Microsoft India had pitched to partner the Indian government to connect 250,000 panchayats with broadband, the company sought permission to start a pilot project in Bengaluru.

Microsoft wants to offer its White Space technology, which has been launched by the company in many parts of the world, including Kenya and the US. The broadband-connectivity technology deploys unused spectrum between two television channels. The project will be implemented in association with the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, on its campus.

Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman, Microsoft India, said the scope of the project could be expanded later to cover areas around the campus. “All it requires is routers and antennas. However, for any use of spectrum, government permission is required.”

“We are waiting to hear from the department of telecommunications,” he said. He added Microsoft would fund the project. Under its National Optical Fibre Network project, the government plans to connect all panchayats by cable.

But more connectivity will be required to reach last-mile households. Pramanik said Microsoft was ready to give away the technology for free to whoever was willing to implement the project — it could be telecom operators, banks or self-help women groups. After the government announced its Digital India project, technology giants, including Google and Facebook, have come forward to support the initiative.

The range of the 200-300 megahertz spectrum in the White Space project is up to 10 kilometres compared to a Wi-Fi network, which can only cover 100 metres in radius. According to the study conducted by Microsoft Research, 93 per cent of the spectrum in this band is free. It will take around three months to complete the project.

Microsoft will also be interested in partnering the government in its citizen interface project — mygov.in where it seeks the citizen views on government initiatives.

Pramanik said since there are so many discussions happening on the portal at the same time, sentiment analysis is needed to figure out the most important ideas and the ones which need to be focused on. “We are discussing with the government on how to make it happen.”

He also said after Skype recently launched its translation services in the Spanish languages, discussions are ongoing about introducing similar features in Indian languages too, especially Hindi. But no specific time frame has been decided upon as yet.

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