The community Internet kiosks, named Akshaya, have been set up by the Kerala State IT Mission Department. More than 550 of the kiosks have been opened in the Mallapuram district, spread over 3,500 square kilometers. The local government plans to introduce kiosks in other districts later this year. The centers will offer services such as Internet access, Net-based phoning and videoconferencing to state offices as well as private businesses. Five Wi-Fi hotspots have also been established around government offices and a tourist resort.
"This is the world's biggest rural wireless network," H.S. Bedi, managing director of Tulip IT Services, said at the launch. "The decision to provide a completely wireless solution was dictated by the Mallapuram's rugged terrain. Other options could have been leased lines or cable or fiber--all of which would have involved digging and would have been more difficult as well as more expensive to roll out."
The broadband backbone for the network has been set up by Tulip, an Indian IT services provider, using gear supplied by a clutch of North American wireless-gear makers. Wi-Lan, a Canadian maker of broadband wireless products, has supplied base stations, while AirSpan has provided Wireless IP Local Loop Systems. Some subscriber premises receivers have been sourced from Marconi, while routers are from Cisco Systems.
India is among the fastest-growing wireless markets in the world, with nearly 39.5 million cell phone users. Companies are now beginning to address rural areas, where there are no legacy systems, with wireless systems that can support both telephony and Internet. Generally, multipurpose community Internet kiosks are preferred, in place of household connections. The kiosks can be used to, among other things, send bill payment to various government departments, file complaints and follow up on passport applications.
n-logue, a wireless company incubated by the telecommunications group at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, has set up kiosks that provide Internet, telephony, e-governance and telemedicine facilities in seven Indian states. Those kiosks rely on wireless technology for only the last mile, using CorDect wireless technology developed and marketed by the IIT Group and Analog Devices.
Wi-Lan said its Versatile Intelligent Network Environment technology deployed in India is designed to "line of sight" limitations, using network nodes as repeaters and routers for other nodes that either do not have line-of-sight or are too distant to have direct connectivity to the Internet node. VINE networks can cost less than conventional cell-based networks, particularly when covering large, sparsely populated areas, the company said. WiLan is also setting up a statewide WLAN in another state, Gujarat.