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India introduces its first satellite-based narrowband-IoT network

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), a government-owned organisation recently announced a breakthrough satellite-based NB-IoT (Narrow Band-Internet of Things) device, which can be used across India where there are no mobile towers.

The move is in partnership with Skylotech India and aims to digitally transform every sector of the economy. It will bridge the digital divide, starting with fishermen, farmers, construction, mining, and logistics enterprises. With this solution, India will have access to a ubiquitous fabric of connectivity for millions of unconnected machines, sensors, and industrial IoT devices, a press release claimed.

The indigenously-developed solution will connect BSNL’s satellite-ground infrastructure and provide pan-India coverage, including the Indian seas. The technology has successfully been tested by the Indian Railways, fishing vessels, and enabling connected vehicles across India.

According to the release, the Skylo ‘User Terminal’ interfaces with sensors and transmits data to the Skylo Network and into people’s hands. The accompanying data platform provides an immersive and visual experience for industry-specific applications on mobile phones or desktops. It gives users the ability to take immediate and appropriate action, no matter where they are. This new digital machine connectivity layer will serve as a complement to smartphone-centric mobile and Wi-Fi networks and covers India’s entire geography to bring online new applications for the first time.

P.K. Purwar, CMD, BSNL, said, “The solution is in line with BSNLs vision to leverage technology to provide affordable and innovative telecom services and products across customers segments”. Skylo will also offer critical data for the logistics sector to enable the effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.

Successful proofs-of-concept (POCs) have already been conducted by the two organisations and will soon approach various user groups before 2021 begins. This announcement comes amidst the ongoing Indian Mobile Congress. The new technology supports the Department of Telecommunications and NITI Aayog’s plan to bring indigenous IoT connectivity to India’s core sectors.

At the Indian Mobile Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted that telecom industry leaders and all stakeholders need to work together to for the timely roll-out of 5G technology as well as to make India a global hub for telecom equipment, design, development, and manufacturing.

He announced a plan for every village in the country to have access to high-speed fibre-optic connectivity over the next three years. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have already been linked up with fibre optic cable. India has over a billion phone users and more than 750 million Internet users, and the Prime Minister said that half of the total Internet users in India were added in the last four years and half of them resided in rural areas. “Our digital size and our digital appetite are unprecedented. We are a country where the tariffs are the lowest in the world. We are one of the fastest-growing mobile app markets in the world.”

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