NET NEWS: India to Pave On-Ramp to Information Superhighway

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Science  04 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5454, pp. 763
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5454.763b

Indian scientists are lauding their government's approval of a new research network that will connect universities to each other and to the global Internet at first-world speeds. Run by a joint venture affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, the net's broad bandwidth should also usher into remote villages technologies such as telemedicine and online classes.

India's Department of Telecommunications and a CMU spin-off company called IUNet agreed in late 1998 to set up a National High Speed Interuniversity Data Network (also known as Sankhya Vahini, or “river of numbers” in Sanskrit). On 19 January, the Cabinet finally gave the project its stamp of approval. The $250 million deal is being financed roughly 50/50 by IUNet and Indian agencies and educational institutions, over 100 of which will be connected. The network, which will also sell commercial connections, will tap into 10,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable already laid in India by the telecom department. It will operate at 2.5 to 40 gigabits per second—comparable to today's commercial Internet traffic in the United States and as much as 10,000 times faster than typical speeds in India. Even India's best connected research institutes have only a 100-kilobit-per-second outside link, says CMU engineering professor V. S. Arunachalam.

Besides helping researchers, Indian officials envision that the network's high bandwidth will pave the way for things like teaching village doctors to perform surgeries via video and giving farmers access to databases on insect pests. Arunachalam says the network should begin operating in about a year.

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