Swedish company challenges Google with broadband in rural areas

Whilst Google and Facebook are struggling with solutions for broadband in rural areas, the Skövde based company Forsway has a hybrid solution that combines satellite and GSM technologies.

 

Everybody wants broadband. Also people in rural areas. Google are working on using helium baloons in the Project Loon and Facebook considers solar powered drones and satellites to connect the entire global population to the Internet. 

 

At the same time, Skövde based Forsway has a solution that uses existing technology. It is a hybrid solution that combines satellites and mobile networks.

In India 900 million people have GSM subscriptions, but not even 100 million have broadband with at least 2 Mbps. With the Swedish solution a family in a rural area, that only has GSM coverage, can use their satellite TV dish and get a high download speed from the Internet. To send information out to the Internet is slower as the GSM network then is used. 

 

- But for many people in for example India and Africa, who today only have Internet with speeds of 20-30 Kbps, our solution is a great improvement. It then gives download speeds of 1-3 Mbps. And when more people are reached by 3G networks, our solution offers higher speeds in the uplink, says Tobias Forsell, founder and MD of Forsway.

The system consists of a central server (Mimir), that is located in the satellite uplink premises, software that manages the data traffic and a modem (Odin) that is located at the end user.

The server and the software are acquired by ISP's and digital TV operators who want to offer Internet over satellite. The modems are acquired by the end users.

 

A satellite dish can be purchased for around USD 10 in several countries in Africa and Asia. Forsway's modems are now more expensive, around USD 100.

- But when we reach volumes of 10,000 and 100,000 the price will come down to USD 25 - 40 for the modems. A household can also share one modem, says Tobias Forsell.

 

The Skövde based enterprise has recently demonstrated the solution for a number of companies and governmental agencies in India.

- We travelled around with a dish and showed the solution and we have now received a first order for a pilot. The customer, and Indian governmental agency, has sites in 600,000 villages where our solution could be deployed.

The next step for Forsway is now to make the solution more generally known.

 

- The development is practically completed. But we are a small company from Skövde, so it is a little tough initially. But once we get to show the technology people get interested, says Tobias Forsell.

The solution is not limited to GSM and the combination with satellite can also be done with WiFi, adsl, 3G and 4G. Forsway's products can manage 50-70 Mbps.

The production is carried out at Flextronics, Linköping (Sweden).

The development of the system has been carried out together with the European Space Agency (ESA) and last year Forsway was awarded SEK 4 million from Vinnova (Swedish reserach agency).

The company is focussing on markets in parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Middle East and has already customers in Congo, Nigeria and South Africa.