The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Varsities set to go high-tech with Wi-Fi access

New Delhi, Oct. 23: Universities are likely to be allowed to set up their own wireless local area networks (LAN) and wireless wider area networks (WAN) soon. But there’s one hitch: the move will be subject to security clearance.

These wireless networks—which will harness the power and democracy afforded by the still experimental 802.11b technology, known to geeks as Wi-Fi—raise the prospect of truly unregulated airwaves that will remain outside the pale of government control.

Wi-Fi, or the 802.11b technology, which is the internet-equivalent of public service broadcasting, is still at an experimental stage in the US and other countries but its potential is immense.

The Wi-Fi access point radiates beyond the four walls—so it is technically possible for others outside the university campus to hook on to the network and surf the Net. The beauty of it, claim votaries of Wi-Fi like Nicholas Negroponte, the MIT professor who has brought the Media Lab project to Mumbai, is that other people can use the network without raising costs or damaging performance.

Communications minister Pramod Mahajan, who is heading off to the land of pizzas and pasta tomorrow where he will showcase the Simputer, said, “We may be open to nation-wide de-licensing in the future. Some security concerns prevented it from moving ahead. But it does not need any licence and can be operated within a given area like schools and colleges.”

At present, the government controls bandwidth spectrum through the Wireless Planning Commission.

However, it has discovered the virtues of Wi-Fi technology which could bridge the digital divide. It has also directed that the Vidya Vahini project—which aims to connect 60,000 government schools with the internet and intranet—should use 802.11b technology.

Recently on a visit to India, Craig Barret, chief of the world’s largest chip maker Intel said that developing countries will lead the broadband revolution and in India this revolution will start with technologies like asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) and 802.11b.

Night surfing cheaper

Mahajan, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a telecom meet, also said that the state-owned telephony majors like Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd had been directed to halve the dial-up rates for internet access between 10:30 pm and 6:30 am.

Both the companies will approach the telecom regulator for approval of the new tariff plan. If accepted, internet users all over the country will be able to access the Net for Rs 12.50 per hour as against Rs 24 per hour at night.

“We wanted to reduce the dial-up access charges for all 24 hours but officials said that it may lead to network congestion. So, to begin with, we will introduce it at night after Trai’s approval. Later, we may explore opportunities to expand the time period,” said Mahajan.

The minister also said that IT-enabled services (like call centres) will be allowed to resell bandwidth, technically called ‘bandwidth in time sharing mode’.

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