Intel is funding research at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, to discover appropriate applications and usage models for wireless internet in rural environments around the world.
IIT Madras is also funding the initiative.
"One of the major initiatives we are undertaking is the proliferation of unregulated wireless, as it offers lower cost of entry and easy deployment," said Joydeep Bose, director of the corporate technology group at Intel Technology India.
" We recognise that voice will not be the primary function, and it will be data over wireless that will bring in revolutionary changes in the usage model."
The Telecommunications and Computer Networks (TeNeT) Group in the electrical engineering department of IIT Madras has used its in-house developed corDECT Wireless Local Loop (WLL) and related technologies to provide internet and voice connectivity to people in rural India through community kiosks.
Local entrepreneurs run the kisoks, which offer villagers online services such as market information, government application forms and even online medical services.
Intel, on the other hand, is backing the 802.11 standard for wireless Lans and the 802.16 standard for wireless metropolitan-area networks (Mans). The company announced in July its intention to develop a silicon product, based on the IEEE 802.16a standard, which will provide a broadband wireless access alternative to "last mile" technologies such as cable and digital subscriber lines (DSL).
The research being done by IIT Madras is likely to yield critical information on the relevance of 802.16 in a rural environment, including inputs on whether the high bandwidth offered by 802.16 would be appropriate in these environments, and on the kind of return on investment that could be expected in rural environments.
"India is a classic test-bed for other emerging economies," Bose said. IIT Madras will have a free hand on the usage models to be experimented with, as well as to arrive at the appropriate wireless technology for rural applications, according to Bose.
"This is research, and the team at IIT Madras will advise us on what technology works in this environment," added Bose. " We should be seeing results fairly quickly, in about a year."
John Ribeiro writes for IDG News Service