Despite its immense capacity to transcend boundaries, mobile technology is still not all pervasive. It is said that about 1 billion people still live outside the mobile network coverage.
Investment at the broad base of the pyramid has been reluctant, primarily because the returns from this segment, particularly rural areas, are not so substantial as in the more urban localities. Global mobile network operators have so far had limited incentives to invest in rural areas, says Y.R. Rao, Managing Director, TerraNet (India & APAC), Sweden, based in Hyderabad.
The need of the hour, he says, is a broader solution to facilitating an ecosystem that lowers the barriers and helps in reaching the one billion who have not been touched yet. That is also what his firm has been doing. TerraNet AB is a telecom company that uses a specific technology for mobile connectivity, setting aside the need for cellphone towers, he says.
More recently, the proliferation of cellphone towers, and their effects on human health have been discussed hotly. Besides, they involved high capital expenditure and operation expenditures, Dr. Rao adds.
This is where TerraNet seeks to make a difference, providing services to the hitherto underserved broad-base, using a technology for mobile communication that eliminates the need for traditional base stations, antenna towers and other infrastructure.
Dr. Rao explains how TerraNet-based rugged handsets create the network. The moment people in a village switch on their phones, the network is up and running and ready to use. The more users on the network, the better the quality of the network. This allows TerraNet’s mobile network to be deployed in places and circumstances where traditional communication technologies have often failed. Including in remote areas, or at times of natural calamities when conventional and mobile communication networks go down.
They operate through a “mesh” network where each node, or handset, not only captures and disseminates its own data but also serves as a relay for other nodes. It has to collaborate with other nodes/handsets to propagate data in the network.
The company makes available mobile voice, text and data services and it sits on the Android platform. The network itself is based on VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol that starts and stops voice and data connections) and is capable of smooth and easy interconnects with the existing telephone networks. This is important because it makes communication easy outside the TerraNet network range.