Microsoft pulls plug on White-Fi internet rollout

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on March 12, 2018


Tech major had launched low-cost rural connectivity pilot project in a Maharashtra village

Tech giant Microsoft has drawn the curtains on its ambitious White-Fi internet connectivity project, which it had projected as a low-cost way of providing internet services to rural parts of the country.

This technology uses unused spectrum in terrestrial TV frequency bands to offer broadband services. Though this is similar to a Wi-Fi network, proponents of White-Fi claim that their technology offers a much wider range, higher throughput, and can be used with low-power devices. Microsoft had started a pilot project at Harisal — a small village in Maharashtra — to showcase the technology.

However, the Telecom Ministry is understood to have declined to give the spectrum band for commercial deployment of White-fi.

Traditional telecom operators had opposed the deployment on the grounds that such rollouts should be done through licensed companies and after auctioning of spectrum. A visit by BusinessLine to Harisal village confirmed that Microsoft has stopped using the technology after its temporary license to use the spectrum could not be renewed.

The company, however, continues to run the Harisal project using the traditional cellular network through an arrangement with one of the telecom operators, sources said.

Impact on other projects

Microsoft is unlikely to scale up the deployment to other villages. When contacted, Microsoft declined to comment on the development.

Several projects that rode on the high-speed internet connectivity in Harisal now stare at an uncertain future.

HP, for example, installed an eHealth centre that connects to doctors across the country for specialised care in cases where local doctors are unequipped to handle them.

HP had also set up an e-learning centre, where students are provided free computer training inside an airconditioned pod.

LV Prasad Eye Institute set up a digital slit lamp for ophthalmology, which lets doctors sitting in Hyderabad examine the eyes of patients in Harisal and offer treatment.

These services will now have to rely on the traditional mobile network.

Published on July 04, 2017

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