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Google Earth mash-up helps mesh Mumbai

New Delhi, India, March 21, 2007: Indian startup network operator LifeStyle Networks Ltd. is building a wireless mesh network in Mumbai in an effort to bring broadband connectivity, and a wide range of services from third party companies, to a city of 18 million people.

And according to LifeStyle’s managing director (MD), Abhishek Javeri, Google Earth has played a major role in the network’s development and rollout. Here’s how Javeri, talking to Light Reading here today, says he first got the idea of how a citywide wireless broadband network could be effective after building a home WiFi network about two years ago. “I found I could access my home network across the road on the beach,” says Javeri, and that got him wondering about the wider possibilities.

The MD raised an undisclosed amount of money from private backers and Mumbai-based firm Sadhana Nitro Chem, which owns 51 percent of the company. Now his company has installed more than 1,000 wireless radios from mesh system vendor Strix Systems Inc. at 200 nodes in Mumbai, covering about 20 square kilometers, or about 500,000 of Mumbai’s population, and plans to have the rest of the city and its suburbs (700 square kilometers and 18 million people) covered in another six months. (See Strix Meshes Mumbai.)

The total cost of rolling out that network will be between 2 billion and 2.5 billion rupees ($46 million to $58 million), says Javeri, who says he is looking at further non-venture capital financing possibilities at present to complete and commercially launch the network, which could happen as soon as July.

Where Google Earth comes into play is in the network planning. Mumbai is a very densely built and populated city, so his team has used the Google mapping service to work out where the radios should be positioned so that the whole city can be covered with a signal that will offer, initially, up to 2-Mbit/s connectivity using unlicensed 2.4 GHz spectrum.

As the radios have been installed, LifeStyle’s team has input the GPS (Geographical Positioning System) coordinates of the network’s nodes into the individual radios, which in turn feed data into the Google application to create an online network map for the company to use. By feeding information from the Strix network management software into Google Earth, Javeri says he can see which nodes are live, how those nodes are connected, and even whether a single radio in a network node is operational or not.