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Alphabet, Indian state partner to deploy new wireless internet tech

Alphabet X wants to help an Indian state connect 12 million households to the Internet by 2019 with new FSOC boxes that sit on rooftops and towers.

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Alphabet X, the company's moonshoot division, announced Thursday it will sell Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) technology to India's Andhra Pradesh state government to connect rural and remote areas across the state.

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Alphabet X will provide two thousand FSOC links, technology that is an offshoot of its Project Loon initiative, to the state. They are small boxes that plug gaps to major network access points like cell-towers and Wi-Fi hotspots. FSOC links can be placed kilometers apart on roofs or towers to transmit beams of light that deliver high-speed Internet connectivity.

Currently, only 20 percent of residents in Andhra Pradesh have access to internet. The state's goal is to have 12 million households and thousands of government organizations and businesses connected to the internet by 2019.

The Andhra Pradesh vision is: "To establish a highly scalable network infrastructure, accessible on a non-discriminatory basis; to provide on demand, affordable and end-to-end broadband connectivity of 15 to 20Mbps for households and 100Mbps to 1Gbps for institutions & enterprises by 2018, to enable realization of the Vision of Digital AP, in partnership with the Government of India and the private sector."

Alphabet X, a division formerly known as Google X, first implemented FSOC technology within its Project Loon project. Launched in 2013, the project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of roughly 18 kilometers to create a wireless network with 4G LTE speed.

Alphabet called the FSOC boxes a new approach to Project Loon. The company said its X division will have a small team of engineers and experts based in Andhra Pradesh to support the new tech's implementation.

Alphabet and Facebook are trialling numerous technologies and models to extend internet connectivity to poorly-served parts of the world. In 2015, Google signed a memorandum of understanding with three Indonesian operators to extend coverage across the country's islands and has used Project Loon to beam Internet in Sri Lanka.

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