Wireless for Communities (W4C) is an initiative that aims to connect rural and remote locations of India, where mainstream Internet Service Providers are not willing to provide Internet connectivity, through frugal technology and unlicensed spectrum bands.
In many rural and semi-urban areas – whether remote or not-so-remote – mainstream Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not provide connectivity as they feel their operations would not be commercially viable. To overcome this problem, DEF in partnership with Ford Foundation (for pilot project to provide proof of concept) and then global non-profit Internet Society (ISOC) has used free and unlicensed spectrum provided by the government in the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands, and inexpensive Wi-Fi equipment, to connect as many as 38 districts and 18 states. It is now planning to connect more CIRCs located in areas where mainstream or Class A ISPs do not provide any service by using wireless technology based on free, unlicensed spectrum bands. Interestingly, DEF has trained people from the local community to operate and maintain all the wireless facilities that it has set up. Over the last four years, as many as 170 barefoot engineers have been trained. Of these, a total of 20 engineers were trained in Nepal and Bangladesh – 10 in each country. For the purpose of this course, it is assumed that there are three levels at which learners will set up a wireless network. This course is structured to train community members from processes required for Level 1 implementation to processes for Level 3 implementation. This course is divided into two parts. The first part covers some basic concepts related to planning the setup of wireless networks such as conducting a location survey and selecting the required hardware. The second part covers details of actual installation and maintenance of wireless networks.
- 30,000 households inhabiting information dark rural and semi-urban areas were provided infrastructure to access the Internet.
- There have been 146 locations which got wireless Internet connectivity.
- 8 handloom clusters were digitally enabled through a Wi-Fi-enabled ecosystem.
- 100 schools were provided Internet connectivity; 17 connected in the Little Rann of Kutch alone.
- 50 panchayat and government schools were provided Internet connectivity.
- 177 Agariya families have been surveyed and mapped to enable them to access the government schemes and entitlements.