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Alphabet brings the internet to parts of India via laser beams

Alphabet is working on new technologies that will bring the internet to parts of India by using laser beams to create fiber optic networks without cables.

Published onDecember 15, 2017

  • Alphabet is using a new technology to bring the internet to Andhra Pradesh in India.
  • The new technology uses laser beams to create a network without cables.
  • The local government wants to connect 12 million households by 2019.

Alphabet is on a mission to bring internet to parts of the world where it has thus far been impossible to get connected. It started Project Loon, its balloon-based internet project, several years ago to accomplish that goal. We’ve seen the balloons deployed in countries like Sri Lanka and Vatican City, and used after natural disasters in Puerto Rico and Chile. The balloons set up Wi-Fi networks while floating about 11 miles up in the air, but they’re temporary.

Now, Alphabet is teaming up with India’s government on a more long-term solution. The technology is called Free Space Optical Communications, and it doesn’t rely on balloons floating in the sky at all. Instead, 2,000 boxes are set up on rooftops and posts that beam light at each other to create a network. According to Baris Ekrman from Alphabet’s X Innovation Lab:

Just like fibre optic cable, but without the cable.

The boxes are headed to Andhra Pradesh, a state located on the southeastern coast of India. Of the 53 million people in the area, only about 20% have access to the internet. The government has pledged to connect 12 million more households by 2019 and will use the high-bandwidth FSOC links to do so.

The technology sounds straight out of the future. Beaming light at boxes to connect millions of people to the internet? But, this is what X Labs does. It figures out ways to bring reliable internet to places that would otherwise do without. The technology can also handle common obstacles like rivers, roads, and railways since there are no cables to run. No cables also means the government can also avoid the costs and time investment to dig trenches.

Google isn’t the first huge company to try and bring the internet to remote parts of India. Facebook has also been in the country for a couple of years and recently started selling its Express Wi-Fi. It’ll be interesting to see if the two end of being competitors or if there is enough business to go around.

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