"Connecting the Unconnected"

Our team recently got the opportunity to hear to some eminent people who are working towards making connectivity very strong in the rural areas in our country. In a recent webinar conducted by IEEE, we got to hear about a lot of work going on in this field. Here are the highlights for the webinar:

  • Some projects taken up in Pathardi village in Maharashtra

  • A few experiments done in Anantpur district in Andhra Pradesh

  • Rural Broadband Architecture

  • Low Mobility Large Cell

  • BharatNet

The Webinar was Moderated by Mr. Munir Mohammad. He introduced the first speaker, Ms. Sarbani Banerjee Belur as a Research Scientist at IIT Bombay in the Electrical Engineering Department passionately working for the “Rural Background Project”. She is also representing "IEEE DIITA for affordability and accessibility workstreams"

1. Ms. Sarbani Baneriee Belur:


Ms. Sarbani thanked Mr. Munid and greeted the audience and introduced herself as working in this field for past 6 years to enable connectivity to Remote villages and working for “connecting the unconnected”.

Talking about the Rural Urban Digital Divide, she says still there’s no Internet Connectivity in many of the Rural Areas.

Internet Connectivity can be provided either by:

  • Mobile Operators or

  • By the BharatNet initiative of Government of India. This initiative is doing well in most of the areas.

Sometimes it happens that they have to climb a hill or climb a tree. Mobile signals are not so strong.

Talking about Optical Fibres, she says if we are taking it to Gram Panchayat, sometimes it is not enabled because it requires Telecom Operators to enable it. In Maharashtra, mostly it is BSNL and the connectivity is not good. Sometimes only office work can be done. With the advent of Jio as a Telecom Operator, it has increased.

Localised Streams are also doing well.

Community Lead Initiative

In 6 years of her experience, she has also worked on Community Lead Initiative. Here, the whole Community owns the Connectivity and the whole Community uses it. For example, in a Hospital or in the Banking Service.

Rural Connectivity Challenges in India

  • Unavailability of Fiber Back haul in India- This is so because most of the time, the fiber has reached only till the nearest city or town and not the villages. BharatNet has done some work in it.

  • Low Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) – Even if the Connectivity has reached to the nearest village, the rural people are unable to pay for the services as they don’t have a fixed income.

  • Intermittent availability of electricity. Electricity is only for 5-7 hours.

Accessibility and Affordability are the two important challenges in Rural India and that depends upon Connectivity.

Talking about Rural India’s dependency on connectivity,

  • Ms. Banerjee explained that the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) and the Asha Workers at the Primary Health Care Centers, they need connectivity to update the data and the logs in the system in the sense that they track the mother and the child, and then they get their salary.

  • In the schools, they need to update the attendance of the tribal students, then the students get the scholarships accordingly.

  • There are no ATMs, since there is no connectivity. People have to go away to 24 km (up and down included). They have to go to city to get their Bank Balance updated.

  • Many e-governance services which are initiated by the Central and the State governments are unable to reach Rural India.

The Project "Gram Marg"

Gram Marg's journey for the past 6 years to enable Rural Connectivity.

  • 2012- Quantitative assessment of TVWS (TV Whitespace) in India

  • 2013- Establishment of India’s first TVWS test bed covering 7 villages

  • 2014- Impact assessment study

  • 2015- 25 villages were covered. Large scale development of 5.8 GHz WiFi

  • 2016- Prototype development of TVWS Devices

  • 2017- Developed the sustainable economic model (4P Model) and seeded the growth of community led network.

  • 2018- Established the 25 villages live network and validated the 4P Model

  • 2019- Completely implemented the Bottom Up Approach of connecting the unconnected in one of the villages in Jawhar in Maharashtra.

How to meet the Accessibility Challenges

Ms. Serbani who represents India in International Domain, she says-

  • The Community Network:- is By, Of and For the people.

  • The experts do not go to the villagers for “Connecting The Unconnected” whereas the Rural Community, they themselves ask for Connectivity. They work for arranging the financials and think themselves how to make best possible use of it.

  • They empower the Local ISPs (Internet Service Providers) including the Local Cable TV Operators.

  • There can be connectivity at one network and offline at other places in the villages.

  • They use automatize methods to make people understand when it’s online or offline.

  • Connectivity Usage is by the Women, the students in the school, the farmers and the other villagers.

Women First Approach

Ms. Sarbani has recently completed a project on Women First Approach.

It was observed from the 25 village model, in Palghar district (Maharashtra), that most of the people who had been connected, among them the women did not connect. This was so because there were so many Barriers and Challenges for them. So, now they focused on the Community approach but taking Women First.

Pathardi Village

Pathardi is a village in Maharashtra. It’s at a distance of 4 hour drive from Mumbai.

So, now taking the reference of Pathardi village, Ms.Sarbani explained that they trained the women here.

  • So, this project was funded by APC (Association for Progressive Communications).

  • It was part of Community Networks Learning Grant.

  • The Project Partner was – BAIF Development Research Foundation.

She said people approach them as Community, that they want Connectivity in daily life.

Women could use connectivity to earn their living.

Why the focus is on “Community”?

Sometimes it involves huge funding. Talking about a village she said,

  • We don’t think how they would pay for connectivity.

  • People in the village do not understand how to use this technology.

  • She gave an example to show how connectivity usage was there, she said, people were watching movie on hotstar application and they were using whatsapp. But then what happened was when connectivity was not there, they would do phone calls. So, there are many ways to use it.

Why Community needs Connectivity?

Dr. Sarbani explained that if Connectivity is owned by Community. It is paid by Community. It enables gender equality. Here, women also participate. Various Entrepreneurship Models are there. Everything is at the Local level. Nothing is from outside.

Talking about Parthadi village, she said, there they developed Community Networks. The place had initially no connectivity. At some places, they had to climb and then they received good signals by Jio and Airtel as the Telecom Operators. They wanted to use that for the Banking facilities because they had to go to City for Cash Withdrawals and they wanted it for E – Governance Services. So, that was the need.

Network Architecture

  • At one location, they installed a Sim Card based Digital Router. They installed it where the Signal Network was strong.

  • The Online Connectivity was used by them for Aadhar based services, for doing online Bus or Train tickets and for Mobile and Banking facilities.

  • Rest the entire network was offline network.

  • The offline network was used by Tribal Community.

  • It was used for helping the Illiterate people.

  • It was there for the Local Knowledge Generation.

  • Community Radio was there.

  • Two access points were set up in the village.

  • The villagers could upload their video and audio at the Local Access Server.

Affordability was the most important thing in the 25 – Village Project.

The 4P Model

The 4P Model was a multi stakeholder project.

  • Public

  • Private

  • Local Self Government

The Local Self Government or the Panchayat, they are sometimes ignored.

Local involvement means they involve the Local Entrepreneurs.

All the three partners are involved in Revenue Sharing.

For example, the same mode was Replicated in Tanzania and was successful there.

In Pathardi village,

  • They Local knowledge of Art and Craft was converted to Entrepreneurship Model.

  • Now they could put money into the Bank Accounts.

  • e-dost – It was a service which was like a Digital Correspondent. It provided financial services. Provided Life Skills. It was like a Digital Catalyst.

  • Co-creating Internet - Indigenous knowledge on Seeds, Trees and Medicinal Plants was used.

  • Paintings were sold on e-platform through e- commerce. People could buy this online. This provided support to Tribal livelihood.

  • There are satisfied users of connectivity.

  • Publications have been published.

With this Ms. Sarbani concludes her discussion over the topic.

2. Mr. Sandeep Agarwal


Mr. Munir Mohammad introduced Mr. Sandeep Agarwal as the next panelist for the discussion. who has had more than 11 years of experience in telecom and WiFi projects and is currently a Team Leader at C-DOT. His topic of discussion was,

"Architecture for Sustainable and

Affordable Rural Broadband"

Mr. Sandeep Agarwal explained how to make Rural Broadband sustainable. He said the definition of “Broadband” is specific to the country.

Talking about Affordable Broadband for Rural Communities, he said

Data Plan or tariff is based on –

  • Income Level of Rural Population

  • Usage requirement for day to day needs.

  • Low denomination based plans.

  • They focused on enabling a local person /entrepreneur to establish an internet business.

Broadband usage in Rural Areas


Business to Citizens:

  • E-banking

  • E-commerce (e.g. – buying groceries online)

  • Ticket booking, mobile recharge etc.

  • Buy self - insurance, crop insurance etc.

Government to Citizens (e - governance services):


  • Bharat Bill Pay - one place to pay multiple bills.

  • Pan Card, filing RTI, Passport Services, Government Housing Scheme, Election Commission


General use :

  • To connect with friends and relatives using social media, whatsapp, tiktok,

  • VOIP calls to friends and relatives residing in town/ city

  • Knowing the market price of crops

  • News, Weather forecast

  • Watching agricultural videos

Broadband usage by Institutions in Rural area

  • Hospitals

  • Schools

  • CSC (Common Service Centers) to provide G2C services

  • Government offices (to keep Agriculture, Land, Marriage and Death Records)

Moving from PCO (Public Call Office) to PDO (Public Data Office)

  • A shift from Voice to data

  • PCO has a sustainable model.

  • The PCO is used by people who can’t afford phones.

  • For everyone, ISD call facility is not feasible to have in cost.

  • As per need, you may use service.


  • In PDO, Buy data vouchers – Anyone having Mobile, Laptop can use this service.

  • It is a sustainable model for Local Entrepreneurs.

  • Reselling of Bandwidth

  • Single Box solution – which can plug and play with any available backhaul (copper/fibre/Wi- Fi/ LTE) using Renewable source of energy like Solar energy.

  • Local relevant content -in regional language to make system usable even when there is a backhaul failure

  • Push Rural Income towards Digital India

PDO Architecture


PCO has less regulatory requirements.

If people have a smartphone, they have Wi-Fi, So Wi-Fi is kept at base. WiFi has no license spectrum and regulation.

If Wi-Fi is available 1 km away, if cellular connectivity is at 10Mbps, then the Modules which the system require:

  • There should be Bandwidth

  • Policy Mechanism

  • User Authentication functionality

  • Voucher Generation

  • KYC

  • User on- boarding

  • Content Server

Other Benefits-


  • Since Local Entrepreneurs are having the ownership, they have the Local Skills.

  • Local Entrepreneurs have local maintenance system.(fibre cut or link down issues).

  • ICT Skill Development by VLE- By teaching how to operate PDO to others.

  • Local relevant content being presented in local language for village people in free or paid medium.

  • Business that developed around PDO, like Photocopy and printing jobs etc.

Affordable Broadband + Sustainable Model in Rural India

Eg. BharatNet Infrastructure

Fixed cost

  • Cost of PDO hardware and accessories,

  • Cost of solar panel, cost of charge controller.

  • Cost of thermal printer to voucher


Recurring cost

  • Cost of backhaul fibre bandwidth

  • Internet bandwith cost

  • Cost of electricity


Business Model

  • The Local Entrepreneur can sell the internet to multiple people with at least 30 people using it per day with 5-10 people simultaneously using it with minimum broadband speed.

  • Voucher plans – 10GB/ day or 5GB/day

  • Revenue from complimentary services like printing etc.

Sustainable Business-

  • Breakeven within 6-8 months

  • Profitable (25 to 50K per year)


C-DOT Public Data Office - consisted of a GUI or android app given.


The experts also explained about Leveraging BharatNet infrastructure (Fibre and VSAT) through PDO.


C-DOT PDO or PoC / Trial in Indian network:

  • On Ethernet Backhaul: ( Indian Post Office, Karnataka Rural )

  • On Wi- Fi Backhaul: (CSC, Meerut Block)

  • On Ethernet VSAT: Tripura

  • On BSNL VSAT: Nainital

Policy /Regulatory requirement:


  • Reselling of Internet through vouchers by PDO requires to be allowed by the Regulator of the country. This is a very important factor.

  • There should be IP Based KYC such as Aadhar shall be allowed for KYC of user to access internet through PDO.


Scalability of Architecture:


Validity of Voucher when user roam from one PDO to another in a village

  • Depending on the size of village, multiple PDOs can be deployed by a VLE.

  • The user authentication functionality can be moved from Local to Central to support the feature.

Village Level Coverage

  • Wi-Fi Radios or Access Point can be deployed in Point to Point, Multi- Point or MESH configuration with Single PDO as Root Node to provide village level coverage


With this, Mr. Sandeep Agarwal concludes with his part of the presentation.


Dr. Banerjee and Mr. Agarwal Addressing Questions of Audience:

Further, Mr. Munir Mohammad took up the questions of the audience. The first question addressed was, “Do the Postal Services also play an important role in connectivity establishment?”

This was answered by Ms. Banerjee as, in Belgaur, entrepreneurs are working with Reliance Jio. Jio- fi is put up in locations at the grocery stores in village. They have a target of e- governance, banking. Banking services are also attached to BOD, PNI, Dena Bank.

Postal Services are not seen playing any role currently in Maharashtra in terms of connectivity.

The next question addressed was “How to provide Community network in hilly areas?”

For this, Ms. Banerjee replied that Parthadi is a village in the hilly areas. It has set up a Community Network. It is located in a valley in the middle of the hills. She says that you have to identify the locations where mobile strength is strongest. They tried with ISP to provide Bandwidth but the Cost is high. It was not affordable by Community in the village. Then they went for Mobile Sim Card Based Cellular Router.

The next question addressed was “How e-learning is reaching Rural India?”

After enabling connectivity, they have added meaningful connectivity. They have enabled education and skill development. Helped farmers with the market linkages. Through an MHRD Project by IIT Bombay, developed open source softwares in which 10 minute tutorials are available. It is dubbed and available in different languages.

The next question was about LTWAN Technology for which Mr. Sandeep Agarwal said that the usage by end users requires a minimum bandwidth. At present, the Wi-Fi, the cellular network along with BharatNet, these technologies are there.


The next question put forward to the panelists was “Is community trying to make use of the same infrastructure during the COVID -19 times?”

It was answered that for health purposes, the Community Radio is being used by the villagers and the Asha workers use it for the skill development purposes. The Connectivity has helped the Community to build up the Local knowledge (eg- herbs) on building Immunity.

Next they talked about the different models being scaled up for different village sizes. So, the speaker explained that the question which arises in the minds of the village people is that can they earn money from this model and the connectivity that is established. This was the starting point for them. They would get the entire recharge in Rs.1200 and would get a substantial data. All villagers use it for Banking and e-governance. So, sometimes twice in 6 months, they would have to recharge. Sim Card Based Cellular networks are established. Places where Jio towers are present, may be there they can use it.

The next question addressed to Mr. Sandeep Agarwal was that how to ensure enough Bandwidth connectivity and to ensure that the whole village is covered?

For this answered that they established 3-5 Access points. In village Gram Panchayat, BharatNet fibre was distributed over different locations. The Access Point was established in Mandi or Village Gram Panchayat Building.

The next question addressed was that “Are any service providers or vendors collaborating with PDO?”

The panelists replied that there were POC trials with:

  • Community Service Centers

  • Indian Post Office – which had trials in Dharwad area (Rural Karnataka). It was the VSAT Location.

  • As per TRAI’s recommendation, various policy requirements are needed.

Next they discussed about the “use of Internet Café”.

They said that in Internet Cafe, they can come and access the Internet on desktops or on their mobile devices. There are various rules on Licensing Clause for the person who owns the Cafe.

3. Dr. Radha Krishna Ganti


Mr. Munir Mohammad introduced us with the third panelist for discussion. Dr. Krishna Krishna Ganti who is working in IIT Madras. His topic of discussion was:


"Low Mobility Large Cell (LMLC)"

(Use Case for Rural Broadband Connectivity)

Dr. Radha Krishna greeted the audience and thanked the prior speakers for setting up the context regarding user based connectivity. They mainly talked about getting a connectivity from Cellular Systems.

He says in Rural Background, Connectivity is the main issue. Dr. Ganti says that profitability and feasibility are the main driving forces any technology to success. In terms of profitability, the output from villages is very less. There is not enough Research and Development. We have to break this cycle. There is some kind of connectivity. He talks about the “Last Miles Connectivity”.

Here, we do not have to take the money from the Villagers for Investment. The Infrastructure is set up from the ISP.

Providing Connectivity to Homes and Farms is important. In half a decade, the IoT as a technology in farms would play a crucial role.

It should be a distributed system. Everyone should not buy their own system because it will be costly for the villagers.

Talking about "Cell Phones and Cellular Infrastructure" , Dr. Ganti says:

Why Cell Phones?

Most of the villages have smartphones. Smartphones are important. Penetration is enormous. Broadband Connectivity is required to deliver content. Smartphones are important to grab this content. Shops and Retail Centers are there to provide repair facility. Huge support chain is available. No specialists are required.

Cellular Infrastructure

Advantage:

  • Centralized way of providing Broadband connectivity. It reduces Cost and Maintenance of distributed infrastructure.

  • Can provide home broadband connectivity

  • Through CPE (Customer Premises Equipment) technology , can cover farms for IoT.


Issues:

  • In villages, cost feasibility is important.

  • At most, the villagers can afford to pay 10/20 Rs. a day

  • Cost is important.

  • Cellular infrastructure should be optimized within prices.

  • Cost of deployment should be low.

  • It should be Profitable to operators.

Solution:

  • A single Base station should serve the neighboring villages.

  • If there is 1 BS, then power supply would be needed to be given only at one place and maintenance would be only at one place.

  • If it serves like 5-6 villages across a large geographical area.

  • We can build this to get a distributed network.


How much distance should a Base Station serve?

A BS should serve neighboring villages. This was explained through a 2- D graph with distance on the x-axis and on the y-axis, we take the percentage of villages.

Taking the example of villages in India, the speaker said –

  • A Base station which serves 4km can cover 80% of villages.

  • A Base station which serves 6km can serve 94% of villages.

  • The distances of the BS in Urban areas puts a fundamental constraint on the Technology.

Do Current Technology and Architecture support this?

  • ITU is a UN Agency.

  • Every 10 years, it defines the 4G, 5G etc.

  • It defines the requirements of every wireless generation For example, 5G should serve whom and it should provide support to which people.

  • It defines the Use Cases.

  • Also defines the Test Environment against which standards are tested.

  • Test Environment – comprises of a channel model.

  • ITU sets the stage for Technology Development.

What are Test Environments that ITU has?

Usage Scenarios –

  • Indore Hotspot e MBB

  • The e MBB has:

1. Dense Urban e MBB

2. Rural e MBB

  • Urban macro m MTC

  • Urban macro u RLLC

Rural in 3GPP / ITU

Low Mobility Large Cell (LMLC) is introduced by TSDSI in ITU as a new test configuration.

  • 6km ISD

  • Vehicular Movement at 30 kmph

  • Pedestrians at 5 kmph

  • Test Frequency at 700 Mhz.

  • New Channel Model till 21 km.

How does LMLC Use Case help?

  • LMLC have been accepted by ITU.

  • Cost of deployment increases.

Usage Community:

  • LMLC tries to highlight that large cells are build up with affordability.

  • Developing new technologies

LMLC ( Low Mobility Large Cell )


At TSDSI, ITU and 3GPP:

  • Mobility

  • No of users increase

  • Power Issues

Even places like US, Australia also face connectivity issue in Rural areas.

Large cells are required in rural areas that needs focus on Research.


With this Dr. Ganti ends his part of the demonstration.

4. Mr. Punit Rathod

Mr. Munir Mohammad introduced Mr. Punit Rathod as working in Research and Development field for more than 15 years. He had an experience in “Modelling and Simulation” and in “Prototyping” field. He is very active in the 5G activities.

Rural Broadband Architecture

TSDSI – Telecommunication Standards Development Society


The speaker further discussed about the “TSDSI Roadmap 1.0”

It had three phases:

  1. Study Phase – Requirement Analysis is done here

  2. Candidate Technologies

  3. Energy Efficiencies of Candidate Technologies and Plausible Technology – A study report is prepared.


NDCP 2018 (National Digital Communication Policy 2018)


Focus Areas:

1. Connect India: Creating a Robust Digital Communication Infrastructure

2. 2022 Goals: Providing Broadband Connectivity of 50Mbps to every citizen

TRAI Public Open Wi-Fi Framework

  • It has a high level framework.

  • It has a strict compliance to specifications.

Other Ecosystem Activities

  • Rural tele - density and rural coverage by IMT technologies

  • Alternate technologies like to cover far to reach cluster of users.

  • Example – HIBS, HAPS, Satellite

Further talking about "International Mobile Telephony:

Different implementation modes:

  1. BBNL

  2. BSNL

  3. PPP

  4. Satellite

The sad part is that there are multiple different methods that creates fragmentation.

The usage determines how successful it is. The usage by TSP and ISP is rising.

The speaker further discussed about the TSDSI Roadmap 2.0 – Enhancement to 1.0

Here they discussed about TSDSI Study Item Proposal: NIP233


5. Mr. Santosh Sam Koshy


Further, Mr. Munir Mohammad introduced us with the next panelist for the discussion, Mr. Santosh Kumar Koshy as the Joint Director – CDAC (Hyderabad Office)

His topic of discussion was “IoT Applications in Agriculture”

The speaker introduced CDAC as a scientific society under MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India).

It is currently developed in 11 cities. The Hyderabad branch focuses on:

  • Profussal Electronics

  • Software Technologies

  • Cyber Security

Mr. Santosh Sam Koshy himself holds a specialization in Embedded Systems.

Applications in Agriculture

  • Yield forecasting and Market Connect – This will help in better management of cost.

  • Health of Crop / Soil and Mapping and Monitoring

  • Farm Weather Monitoring – Macro and Micro Climate

  • Optimal Resource Conservation (PF): Water, Soil

  • Early Detection of Plant Disease, Past Infestation


Enabling Technologies:


1. Data Acquisition and Actuation Control:

IoT is gaining popularity in the current times.

  • It is important for yield forecasting.

  • Drones can be used for farm/crop/soil/pest surveillance.

  • Autonomous robots and farm machinery for soil related information and actuation control.

2. Data Processing:

  • Cloud based technologies

  • Big Data, ML and AI

  • Pest and Disease Modelling, NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index), Irrigation, Soil Health, Yield Estimation.

3. Data Communication

Global Scenario

1. Cropx

  • Provides hardware and software integrated system

  • Measures soil conditions

  • Issues advices to farmers

2. Cattle monitoring and management

  • IoT agriculture scenarios

  • Example, SCR by Allflex and Cowlar

  • To measure body temperature and activities

3. Robotics and Farm Machinery

  • Soil Mapping – EC, pH, organic matter

  • Weeding Robots

  • Machine navigation and control

4. Drones and Computer Imaging

  • · Crop health, irrigation, spraying, planting, soil and field, plant counting

Payloads:

Imaging Payloads – like Thermal, Cameras, Multi Spectral Devices, and Hyper Spectral Devices.

Work done by them:


They developed two Projects:

1. HARITA PRIYA System

2. IIOR-DSS

HARITA PRIYA System:

  • It was funded by Andhra Pradesh government.

  • It gave about groundnut pest and disease forewarning.

  • It was an Irrigation Scheduling Application.

  • It implemented various technologies:

1. Data Processing using Web Technologies.

2. Data Communication using Mobile Communication.

  • The Wireless Sensor Networks included:

1. Canopy Sensor Unit

2. WSN Node

3. WSN Gateway

  • · This system also provided Decision Support Models.

  • · It also provided Agro Advisories (to the farmers in Telugu).


IIOR-DSS:

  • It was funded by the Agriculture Institute.

  • It was about the Castor Gray Mold Disease.


Architecture:


Mesh Network of Sensors -> WSN Gateway -> Storage and Analysis Cloud -> Generate Advisory

IoT / WSN Nodes with sensors are deployed in the open fields. The data is passed through the IoT / WSN Gateway and is further stored though the storage and analysis services in the cloud. This data is used by the farmers and for the expert analysis through Computer based services. Further the advisories were generated.


Implemented at:

  • Anantpur District in Andhra Pradesh

  • They took the Groundnut Crop which is mostly grown in Kharif Season.

  • 74 WSN Nodes were implemented in 5 villages in 450 acres of land for 710 farmers.

  • It was experimented in 3 Mandals inclusive of 5 villages.

Open Field Deployable in IoT Node consisted of:

  • WSN Unit

  • Canopy Sensor Module

  • Communication and Power Unit

Five types of Sensors were used in the Canopy Sensor Model:

  • Leaf Wetness

  • Temperature and Relative Humidity

  • Soil Moisture

  • Soil Temperature

This was used in understanding the Irrigation Patterns in RABI Season.

The Decision Support Models developed in association with ICAR-CRIDA and ICRISAT for the groundnut were:

  • LWI Model – for the Late Leaf Spot Disease

  • GDD Model – for Leaf Miner

How the developed models would work?

  • WSN (Wireless Sensor Networks) Nodes will sense the micro climate data at crop canopy level on real - time basis.

  • Transfer the data periodically to the remote server, through a field “Gateway” having internet access (SIM card).

  • At server level, ‘Decision support models’ are executed based on the data received from the field and alerts are generated by the system.

  • Based on the alerts generated by the system, experts will send personalized crop advisories to the farmers in regional languages.

  • These models would work as WSN Nodes would sense the requisite data. The man in the middle (Mandal Agriculture Officer) who is employed by the Agriculture Department would see the updates on his dashboard. He would validate the data. Then the advisories would be generated. The advisories never directly reached the farmers. The farmers receive this as the SMS.

  • They developed a software system (www.haritapriya.ap.gov.in) . It had various views. A view for the government officials, another view for the Mandal Agricultural Officer

Results obtained from a pilot project done over 5 villages:

  • In 2015, 117 farmers were benefitted during the Kharif season.

  • They generated 41 disease forewarning alerts.

  • 561 total advisories were sent.

  • 3521 advisories sent till date.

Challenges faced:


On the device side:

  • Line of Sight Communication:- They mostly used zigbee. It was planned that the range should have reach 300 metres but within that crop foliage, the range would fall down to 50-60 metres.

  • Power Supply, -Data Rate and Range Trade off: Now the LPWAN Technology has come in use which provides better data rate.

  • Deployments of devices with various network architectures.

  • Last Mile Connectivity – 4G is sometimes not available in the deployment fields. Various models have been proposed to the government with the representative fields.

  • Cost benefit is still not convincing

  • Technology scalability vs Accuracy


On the application side:

  • Lack / Limited models for Pest / Disease Forewarning

  • Limited number of use cases

  • Application of technology requires testing in multiple crop seasons / cycles

  • Convincing the farmers to adopt scientific methodologies. Many a times, the farmer is scared.

  • There is problem at the political level as well. Many a times, they have voted against the government in power. So, there is a risk to damage the hardware which is being deployed.


How does IoT help in Agriculture?

  • For Micro Climate Monitoring

  • Drones with multiple payloads like MS / HS and Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence Applications

  • Robotics and Autonomous Field Machinery for Soil Mapping Applications

  • For Actuation Control:

a. Irrigation – Sprinkler Automation

b. Fertigation

c. Pesticide Spray

Questions addressed by the experts:

Further Mr. Munir Mohammad took up the questions by the listeners.


The first question addressed was “Not just Bandwidth but also Continuity for Connectivity is an issue, how well you ensure this and how is it maintained” for which the experts said that This is a challenge even for Jio Connectivity

In PDO, Backhaul connectivity of fibre is required. If there is any local person involved, he will be very instrumental. So that he is regularly following up with the authorities. If connectivity is not there, the authority needs to be informed that the link is down or up. When it is down, some alternative needs to be provided.


Next question was about the Cellular Towers for which the experts said that to establish a Cellular Tower, you require a bit Gigabits of link of the Backhaul.

Elaborating on New Channel Models in Rural areas, Dr. Radha Krishna said that earlier Rural Models were limited to 6km. There was signal from the serving cell and the interference from the neighboring cells. That was not sufficient in the LMLC Model where they required 21 km Range. Now the Channels are online.


Addressing the next question about LoRaWAN, Prof. Radha Krishna said that, 5G itself has (NVT) Network Visualisation technologies as well an MNTC (Moore Norman Technology Centre) is coming up with 5G specifications. It will be supported by the Base station.

Adding to Dr. Radha Krishna, Dr. Koshy said that LoRaWAN gives advantage, however as the data rates are very low, it is sufficient for IoT. It sends once an hour or 10-20 packets in a day. It cannot be integrated with 5G. Can be scaled up to a range of 8.5km. These are all IoT based technologies and not sufficient for data rate.


Talking about the BharatNet availability across all states, the experts said that BharatNet at Intel have been doing some experiments in Rural India and some villages. Talking about the capacity of Dark Fibre, they said it has sufficient capacity which is in current times 100 Mbps and is scalable in future.

Talking about LMLC with a frequency of 7 GHz, they said this is a use case at ITU. The experts said at TSDSI, all these are representative technologies.

As high bandwidth technologies are being used, if you are moving far away from a Base Station your data rate is going to drop. We can use them to provide WiFi at the local level.


The next question put forward was "How can LMLC be cheap when needs large power?"

This was answered by the experts as, it does not mean that we increase the power drastically. We try to keep the same power but achieve a larger coverage area.

It can not be achieved, if we increase the power in the uplink. A lot of factors are taken into consideration. Having 1 Base Station would be better from establishment point of view than having smaller fibres.

Talking about LMLC, they said that large LMLC are established. It should be deployed at multiple frequency bands. So, whatever technologies they develop should have the LMLC characteristic.

Mr. Pradeep said that many test configurations have been brought up by India at ITU.

Next question addressed was that what is the "Research Potential in Rural Broadband?"

The experts stated that with Network Architecture, there are usage patterns which are emerging. Either entire application is hosted on edge or the content consumption specific to the local users. User identifies it is not a standalone network whereas it is a network cluster and a central node is not at the district level but it as close as the village.

How is Sensors based technology used in Seasonal Crops?

This was responded by the experts as from the concerning cost point of view, the models can be developed. From application point of view, they advice the villagers to ascend their area with advisory.

Large Cells require more infrastructure, more maintenance. The problem is complex.

BharatNet end points are established in Gram Panchayats. The end users are people inside the village. From administratively associated, that village is located at 5 km away.

The next question addressed was How is Mechanical Hardware imported talking specifically about “Drones”, the experts replied that India is lacking sensor technology. There is a project undergoing by DST (Department of Science and Technology). They would definitely see a paradigm shifting in next 5 years.

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