Wednesday, Jul 02, 2003
Front Page |
Southern States |
Other States |
Advts: Classifieds | Employment | Obituary |
By Anand Parthasarathy
The Pacific island of Niue, the world's smallest independent, self-governing state (in free association with New Zealand), has became the first nation to provide free connectivity to the Internet, all across its territory, using the Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) technology also known as the 802.11b standard. It has been made possible by the efforts of the Internet Users Society Niue (IUS-N), a private charitable foundation which has been authorised to administrate the Net domain name ".Nu".
The 260-sq. km island lies 2,400 km north east of New Zealand, just east of the International Date Line. While its coral formations make it a favourite yachters' and scuba divers' resort, the rugged terrain makes it impossible to link its capital, Alofi, and its 13 villages with conventional telephone wire. Since last week, the island's website (www.niue.nu or www.niueisland.nu) has links to a page where residents (numbering around 2,000) as well as visitors can register for a free Internet account which will enable them to wirelessly access the Net from their PCs and notebooks, while on or around the island.
This makes the tiny state, the first in the world to leverage free and universal Internet access by the latest untethered technology, to attract tourists even while empowering its citizens. The development comes in the same week when the U.N. launched a drive to e-nable the peoples of the developing world by harnessing Wi-Fi. At the conference on "Wireless Internet Opportunity for developing Nations", held at the U.N. headquarters in New York, various stake-holders in Wireless Net came together to discuss how they could help in the agenda set by the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan: "To make use of the unlicensed radio spectrum to deliver cheap and fast Internet access to the developing world".
The key speaker was Pat Gelsinger, Chief Technology Officer at Intel, world's largest computer chip maker which earlier this year launched Centrino, its own Wi-Fi technology for portable computing. Inexplicably, for an industry leader whose technology roadmaps are charted well in advance, Centrino, launched with a lot of fanfare in India two months ago, hitches its hardware to the slower 802.11b standard while the world had already moved on to the five-times-faster 802.11g, ratified by the relevant standards body a few weeks ago. The company is geared to move to the equally fast but relatively unpopular 802.11a standard next month and will have to scramble to make upgrade to 802.11g at least by next year.
A Cambridge, Massachusetts (U.S)-based company, First Mile Solutions, reported to the U.N. conference that it was involved in creating wireless networks in rural India for as low as $ 250. Most industry speakers delivered homilies to the developed nations on how they should leave the radio spectrum required for Wi-Fi unfettered and free-to-use.
However, they were less forthcoming when it came to making any commitments to match such Governmental largesse with affordable or subsidised hardware and software from their side.
Even as the U.N. conference deliberated, the successful efforts of one state albeit the world's tiniest to bootstrap itself into the big league with no outside help, puts the big Wi-Fi market players to shame and exposes their preaching of the wireless Internet mantra for what it is becoming: just another business opportunity to be milked for all it is worth.
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |
Copyright © 2003, The
Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of