The ambitious ‘Public Open Wi-Fi’ project aims to proliferate the use of Wi-Fi by offering cheap internet connectivity to people in tier-2 and 3 towns in India.
After the success of Public Open WiFi Pilot with over 600 access points, the Department of Telecom (DoT) will go live with 10,000 WiFi hotspots across the country in a month.
“The idea is to launch it first, and refine as we go. We expect to launch 10,000 WiFi hotspots when we launch it next month, and scale up to a 1,00,000 in the first three months,” Telecom Secretary, Aruna Sundararajan told ET.
At present, mobile network data usage is dominant in India as compared to WiFi or other forms of internet usage. The ambitious Public Open WiFi project aims to provide proliferate the use of Wi-Fi, by offering cheap internet connectivity to people in tier-2 and tier-3 towns in India.
On October 2017, the pilot project was conducted to test the system and to check interoperability between Wi-Fi networks. The pilot results released by TRAI from 603 access points shows that 96.3% of the persons found the system user friendly. The report also highlighted that data usage in public WiFi pilots was highest on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
“On the infra provisioning (people who set up paid public WiFi access points) alone this project will definitely create 5,00,000 entrepreneurs,” Sundararajan said. “In addition, people who can get into content creation, and sachetisations (sell Rs. 1 and Rs.3 internet packs) etc. is also significant,”.
The concept of delivery of WiFi to large swathes of the population is through Public Data Office Providers (PDOs). PDOs are akin to the PCOs that connected all of India, even when tele-density was less than 7 telephones per 100 people. This is likely to encourage small businesses to become PDOs via simple registration.
For instance, Kirana store owner Alam (PDO) installed a Wi-FI router at his shop that he purchased from i2e1 (PDOA). “After putting the Wi-Fi router at my shop, the place has become popular among young people, students, and women. The Rs. 5 pack is the most popular as it is affordable as well as sufficient for a shorter duration,” said Alam S, Kirana shop owner in Naraina Delhi.
“The objective is to ensure that by 2022, there is no Indian who does not have access to broadband. Not just broadband, but substantive broadband—50 Mbps of broadband, so that it will enable them to access the development and livelihood interventions that each of them requires,” Sundararajan said.
The unique architecture that powers the model of Public WiFi is called WiFi Access Network Interface (WANI), that is open, and allows multiple providers coming together on one platform to address aspects like access, services, payment, and authentication. The chief architect of Aadhaar Pramod Varma is also the chief architect of WANI.