Five Technologies That Can Help Connect Rural India

The Indian government has decided that the future of the country depends on bringing its people into the information economy.

Rural India is one of the most isolated places on earth. Yet the Indian government has decided that the future of the country depends on bringing the people who live there into the information economy. It won’t be easy. Here is a look at the strengths and weaknesses of five technologies that can help connect rural India to the Internet.

CDMA: This is a fancy way of saying the cell phone network. It is cheap and easy to put up a cell phone base station, and, as a result, rural India has surprisingly good cell coverage. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work for data transmissions and a 3G network that could work is still years away.

DSL/Cable: This is a fast and cost-effective solution, at least in places where it is an option. But only about 5 percent of rural citizens in India have a telephone.

Wi-Fi: Some states in India are building Wi-Fi towers in order to broadcast wireless Internet signals. But the signals are weak and don’t reach very far, making it an inefficient solution.

Wimax: Wimax, a high-speed, wide-reaching wireless standard, is India’s great hope. Today it is just a hope, however. There are few if any successful Wimax implementations in the world. And while India would be willing to be among the first, the consensus is that the technology is not ready yet.

VSAT: Satellite connections are reliable and work anywhere. It’s also by far the most expensive way to connect a village—the average satellite connection costs about $1,000.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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