Today’s Mint newspaper carried an article about the development plans of Bell Labs in India.
Bell Labs, as an institution, is something that I respect greatly - it was personally responsible for UNIX, the transistor, the laser and other game changing inventions. Yet when I read about VillageNET - I was very underwhelmed. (Note: unfortunately, you will have to be a paid member to read anything about VillageNET)
The lab has developed a low-cost wireless-mesh architecture that extends from a town over multiple hops to bring a broadband pipe to rural areas. The lab says it has managed to extend the wi-fi range by using “directional” antenna, commoditized wi-fi radios and novel software that minimizes interference and maximizes system performance.Calling it VillageNet, the lab is close to signing a memorandum of understanding with a Union government agency to start rolling it in rural areas, says Poosala. He is not willing to disclose the name of the agency.
Why do I feel this way? AirJaldi
I have previously written about AirJaldi - the low cost, innovative wireless network already implemented and in use at Dharamsala. It already enables thousands of computers (2000 of them in 2007) working over 45 KM radius using the Dharamsala Community Wireless Mesh Network.
All this technology is free. There are no MoUs, no agreements, no revenue sharing.
It is mutually beneficial - since if the government deploys the AirJaldi Mesh technology on a larger scale, the technology gets fine tuned such that the original creators are benefited.
Note that I do not believe that vested interests are at play here - it is ignorance. The governmental body that makes all the decisions, can be easily reached by well-intentioned corporate bodies through good PR/Marketing.
I just wish that the government pays attention to a group of brilliant scientists - who have created a living, breathing technology which is actually delivering benefit of ten of thousands of people.