On Thursday, Alphabet’s X said that India’s Andhra Pradesh state government has agreed to buy its laser beam technology to deliver high-speed internet. Andhra Pradesh Information and Technology Minister, Nara Lokesh signed the agreement during his visit to X’s headquarters in Mountain View.
Free Space Optical Communication, aka FSOC, the technology was previously used by the Project Loon team to send data between baloons in the stratoshpere. After testing it, they estimated that a similar tech could work closer to land. FSOC boxes are economical, saves time and not necessary to dig trenches or string cable along the poles.
Andhra Pradesh’s telecom company, AP State FiberNet in partnership with Alphabet’s X has set up some 2,000 FSOC links. FSOC links will be installed kilometres apart on roofs or towers to create access points, like cellphone towers and WiFi hotspots. This technology is expected to give up to 20 Gbps from box to box which will then be linked to cellphone towers and Wi-Fi hotspots. The idea is to provide high-speed wireless internet connection to populated areas.
The state government has pledged to connect 12 million households by 2019 as part of its AP Fiber Grid program. Alphabet’s X will roll out this technology in India starting next year. X will have a small team of engineers and experts with the help of the Government of Andhra Pradesh to help roll out the technology and provide real time support.
Baris Erkmen, the FSOC Lead at X, in a blog post:
For the last few months, a small group of us — some of us from the Loon team and some of us who’ve worked on various connectivity-related technologies over the years — have been piloting a new approach with FSOC links. We’ve been working with AP State FiberNet, a telecom company in Andhra Pradesh, a state in India which is home to more than 53 million people. Less than 20% of residents currently have access to broadband connectivity, so the state government has committed to connecting 12 million households and thousands of government organizations and businesses by 2019 — an initiative called AP Fiber Grid.