Connecting the Unconnect, The Biggest Challenge for Wifi

ANI | Updated: Feb 21, 2018 20:10 IST

New Delhi [India], Feb 21 (NewsVoir): WiFi is being touted as backbone of digital infrastructure across many countries but so far it has seen a lacklustre growth in India.

Globally there is one WiFi hotspot for every 150 people.

As per a TAIPA report there are 31,518 WiFi hotspots as of 31st March 2016 and this figure includes the deployments in hotels and cafes.

In contrast, countries like France, US and the UK had 1.3 crore, 98 lakh, and 56 lakh hotspots, respectively.

It is projected that mobile data traffic will reach 1.7 Exabytes by 2020 (12 fold increase from 2015) and WiFi shall carry a major share of this traffic generated in public hotpots and mobile data offload.

In order to give the much deserved push to WiFi deployment in India, the government has announced that it will facilitate the setting up of as many as 7.5 lakh public-internet hotpots by the end of 2018.

Bharat Exhibitions organised WiFi India Summit 2018 to discuss and deliberate on the challenges faced by various stakeholders and how to connect the unconnect.

The objective of forum was to look at the current state of public WiFi growth and assess what are the roadblocks in its growth plan.

The summit saw participation from various key industry such as mobile operators, WiFi network operators, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), hospitals, venue/business owners/ exhibition centre, hotels / shopping mall, airport infrastructure companies, real estate companies, government and municipality, education institutes/university, restaurant and coffee shop owners, regulators and government bodies, device manufacturers, access network infrastructure manufacturers, aggregators and roaming organizations, systems and software suppliers.

Delivering the key note address, Sunil K. Gupta, secretary, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), pointed out that WiFi is preferred over mobile network due to the quality of service.

He also mentioned that apart from traditional network, we can have Internet through cable TV network, or through satellite networks and through WiFi.

Reflecting on the state of connectivity he said, "While the tele-density has reached almost 100 percent, the unique users are still around 40 percent. Even in the case of data, we are talking about 500 million users on the mobile network but the unique users are much lesser than that".

Sunil Gupta talking about the challenges said people using public WiFi should not be required to login again and again every time they wish to use the network.

He went on to state that, "We have solved this very big problem by developing a Ubiquitous open software where all his data and KYC is captured and there after he just have to click to start the service. The framework has been developed and is being evaluated".

Furthermore talking about the connectivity challenge, Gupta talked about using the cable TV network in the near future to connect users in the interiors of the country.

Talking about the joinery of evolution Anil Kumar Jain, chief general manager, BSNL said, "That in 2005-06 the era of data started and in 2017 the consumption of BSNL data by its consumers grew six folds and he believed that all operators may have witnessed a similar spurt".

Shedding light on the state of WiFi in India, Anil Jain said, "There are 8.23 million landline broadband connections in India and is witnessing a downward trend. Fibre-to-home users are 1.25 million. It is being said Asia will lead the WiFi growth and the countries that will contribute to this growth are India, China and Japan".

He added, "Globally WiFi has been growing at a fast pace since 2008. The challenges being faced in the rural areas range from getting a electric connection to securing a space and even getting necessary clearances".

Ashutosh Vasant, chairman and managing director (addl. charge) and director (POM), RailTel talked about being the only profitable telecom company under the Government of India.

He said, "WiFi the world over does not make any money, it is the value addition that helps you earn. If you sit at Starbucks and you get good quality WiFi you are ready to pay Rs. 350 for a coffee. So the need is to think beyond, create avenues to create sustainability".

Commenting on the challenges faced in the rural area in setting up WiFi hotspots, Abhishek Singh, chief operating officer, CSC Wi-Fi Choupal Services India (P) Ltd. said, "We are setting up in places where Internet has not reached. The main challenge we face is in educating the people on how to use as they tend to compare WiFi hotspots to mobile internet".

"Our vision is to be the enabler for driving the penetration of digital connectivity across the unconnected domain. The major challenges according to us are the bandwidth cost and creating an ecosystem in which there is partnership with operators and the government," said founder and director, LMES iConnectWe, Rajesh Kaul.

As per Vikram Deshpande, VP and head, Wi-Fi Business and Alliances, Bharti Airtel the biggest deterrent in having ubiquitous hotspots is the cost factor, "There is a cost of laying of the backhaul, second is the equipment and third will be ROW costs".

Shailendra K. Singh, co-founder and CEO, Shaildhar Telecom talking about his experience in the deployment and growth challenges said, "For us terrain is a big challenge and bandwidth can be a huge cost".

Congratulating the Railways for what they managed to achieve in a short span of time, Gulzar Azad, country head - connectivity, Google India said, "In the morning hours, depending upon the device capability you can get speed up to 35 MBPS or 50 MBPS and what it was telling that Internet is much beyond what they have experienced till now. This is what I would like to call the experience divide and it is not going away but growing at a unrecognised pace. More interestingly, while the second phase is still on, there is third phase is coming up, which is a knowledge divide. Even after your have conquered the Digital Divide, and make WiFi accessible to people, they may not know what to do with and thus creating a knowledge divide. Assisted form of Internet will become extremely important in that scenario. I see RailTel and BSNL investing in it and TRAI thinking about it and that is very encouraging".

Providing a different take to the discussion, Deeptesh Chandra, Director, NetVision said, "Fibre is not a reliable service and hence we are here to talk about WiFi. Unless we face a lot of interference, WiFi is reliable and it works".

The other challenges that were touched upon during the summit were network management and the current quality of mobile service.

This event is partnered by BSNL, RailTel, Cambium Networks, iBwave, Savitri Telecom Services, Mojo Networks, LMES ConnectWe, NetVision, Shaildhar Telecom, LigoWave, i2e1 and TATA DoCoMo.

Knowledge Partner for the event was Broadband India Forum and supported by Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). (NewsVoir)

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