Ericsson in push for rural broadband

Ericsson in push for rural broadband

Chennai: Swedish telecom equipment maker Telefon AB LM Ericsson has launched a trial project in Tamil Nadu to showcase its rural broadband offering, which could enable the delivery of telemedicine and interactive education services at an affordable price in India’s villages.

The $27 billion, or Rs1.1 trillion, firm is looking at increased adoption of wireless broadband technologies in India, the fastest growing market for mobile phone services, as it feels rural masses will pay for services such as telemedicine and entertainment.

“We see it as a viable business model, not as a CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative", said P. Balaji, vice-president of marketing and strategy, Ericsson India.

Ericsson will offer wireless broadband services via a so-called 3G (short for third generation) network in 15 towns in Mahabalipuram district, 60km south of Chennai. The vendor has special permission to run the 3G experiment as telecom service providers in India are not yet permitted to offer 3G services.

Different services will be provided by different entities: Apollo Hospitals Ltd for telemedicine and Bangalore-bas-ed Edurite Technologies for education content. Other partners include CNN and Cartoon Network. The telemedicine will be charged at Rs2 a day for a family.

“The next wave of mobile and broadband demand will be from rural areas," Balaji said. “The challenge is to provide cheap and efficient wireless broadband." He said upgrading the existing networks to 3G will bring down costs by two-thirds, enabling telecom operators to offer affordable services.