Silicon Valley tech leaders rolled out the red carpet for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this weekend, the latest sign of how U.S. tech titans are increasingly keen on strengthening ties and establishing footholds in key international markets.
Google used the visit as a chance to announce plans to launch free Wi-Fi in 400 Indian train stations, Qualcomm said it would invest up to $150 million in Indian startups and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on stage with Modi to talk about it’s internet.org initiative, which is looking to spread broadband access across underserved areas like India.
Microsoft got in on the action, holding a dinner in Modi’s honor and announcing plans to launch affordable broadband in 500,000 Indian villages, according to the Times of India.
The company plans to use “white space” technology for the project, which is a new way of delivering more robust connections wirelessly by taking advantage of unused slices of spectrum previously reserved for television broadcasts. Microsoft has been experimenting with this so-called “super Wi-Fi” in Seattle and elsewhere for a while now, but the technology is really meant for these kinds of rural projects.
“We believe that lost-cost broad band connectivity coupled with the scale of cloud computing intelligence that can be harnessed from data can help drive creativity, efficiency and productivity across governments and businesses of all sizes,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at the dinner, according to the Times of India.
This weekend’s visit came just days after tech leaders flocked to Seattle for a chance to meet with China President Xi Jinping. The trip culminated in an unprecedented photo op that brought together top CEOs like Microsoft’s Nadella, Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alibaba’s Jack Ma and 23 others.
Both India and China have proven to be challenging markets for U.S. companies to crack into, but they’re becoming increasingly important as millions of people there come online for the first time. There’s certainly no shortage of cultural and governmental hurdles in the way, but the tech industry seems pretty sure the goldmine waiting overseas is worth the headaches.