While the Indian government has successfully brought WiFi connectivity to 400 railway stations in partnership with Google, there is still a lot of areas that are devoid of stable internet connectivity.
A directional antenna will be used to beam connectivity to a certain location and thus connects wirelessly as a sandwich between satellites and on-ground broadcasting systems.
At 6 metres long, the aerostat technology is the work of IIT-Bombay, with hydrogen being used to lift it off the ground. It’s fitted with a base transceiver antenna to allow a calling network, and a WiFi modem to provide villagers in the coverage area with Internet, as well as surveillance cameras.
Sinha told TOI the the aerostat cost the agency Rs 50 lakh to set up, and is capable of providing free Internet in a 7.5km range, at a download speed of up to 5 Mbps. “Anyone in the range will be able to connect to the Wi-Fi which will be free initially,” he said. “Anybody will be able to log in without a password.”
Estimates indicate 680 of the 16,870 villages in Uttarakhand lack mobile and Internet coverage, a problem largely caused by the difficulty in laying cables in the hilly region. ITDA says it’s committed to bringing villages like these onto the digital map. “We developed the remote village of Ghes into a digital village and everyone is happy with the effort,” said Rawat. He adds that the plan is to eventually provide free Internet to even more unconnected villages in the future.
In addition, the surveillance cameras on board the aerostat will be used in emergency situations. “When disaster struck Kedarnath in June 2013, the survivors were unreachable as mobile towers had collapsed and roads were cut off,” Sinha said. “Aerostat technology can be used in such situations for real-time monitoring, act as a mobile phone tower and to guide search and rescue operations.”