Project Taara – Google talks to Jio and Airtel about internet light beams

Project Taara high-speed internet
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Internet major Google has begun talks with India’s top two telecom operators Reliance Jio, and Bharti Airtel to pilot high-speed internet using light beams under Project Taara to bring connectivity to remote areas of the country where deployment of optic fiber and wireless network is challenging.

The US-based company, which recently committed $10 billion to India under its digitisation fund, is already piloting the technology in Andhra Pradesh in India and plans to expand the scope of the pilot with the help of Jio and Airtel. 

Google has already picked up 7.73% stake in Jio Platforms for $4.5 billion. Jio Platforms is the parent of Reliance Jio and the digital services arm of Reliance Industries Limited.

“A project is being piloted in Andhra Pradesh by Google, but the company is now holding discussions with Airtel and Jio…this will be a game-changer since it can connect one to remote regions, have internet connectivity across buildings without cables and reduce the burden on towers,” a person familiar with the matter was quoted by the Economic Times.

“Like fiber, but without the cables, Taara uses light to transmit information at super high speeds through the air as a very narrow, invisible beam…Taara links offer a cost-effective and quickly deployable way to bring high-speed connectivity to remote areas,” as per information available on the official website of X, Google’s semi-secretive moonshot factory.

Taara links help plug gaps to major access points, like cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots, and have the potential to help thousands of people access the educational, business, and communication benefits of the web.

This wireless optical communication technology can transmit data at high speeds of up to 20 Gbps. A single link can cover distances up to 20 km and be used to extend fiber networks.

The technology is based on open standards to work seamlessly with existing infrastructure and environments.

Google is also piloting the technology in Kenya, Africa.

Interestingly, an India startup called Wi-Fi Dabba (Wi-Fi Box) already offers 1GBPS speed with prepaid plans as low as Rs 1 ($0.014) per GB in certain Indian cities via its proprietary mesh technology called Supernodes, which use lasers that make a mesh over the city. The lasers are eye-safe and can communicate over distances of up to 2 km.

Fiber deployment is challenging in India for telecom operators and broadband service providers. In rural and remote areas, telcos haven’t been able to deploy their optic fiber due to return on investments (RoI) issues whereas in urban areas right of way (RoW) related challenges have made it difficult for Indian companies to lay optic fiber.

This is one of the main reasons behind the low penetration of fixed broadband in India. Fiber penetration is under 30% in India as compared to 80% in developed markets like China.

Google had previously launched its Station Wi-Fi service in partnership with India’s RailTel across 415 railway stations, making it one of the world’s largest public Wi-Fi projects. In February this year, it had discontinued the service citing cheap data rates for 4G service through all three telecom operators.

The internet major was also in talks with India for its Project Loon but decided to cancel its plans after the country’s telecom ministry said that the proposed spectrum required for this project was already being used by Indian telcos.

Related article: India brings in new scheme to accelerate broadband via Public Wi-Fi

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