Internet service provider Tata Communications has tied up with New Zealand-based WiFi company Tomizone to boost the number of Wi-Fi hotspots in India. When asked, the company declined to share details on the number of hotspots that will be added.
Currently Tata Indicom Wi-Fi claims a 50% market share, adding that India has less than 1000 WiFi hotspots totally. Tata Communications has 500 hotspots at airports, hotels, coffee shops, restaurant chains, hospitals, educational institutes, railway stations and shopping malls, and offers roaming access to broadband or dial up users in 300 cities/ towns. With Tomizone, Tata Communications will target small cafe owners, service apartments and SOHOs (small office-home office) to increase coverage.
Wi-Fi In India, Airtel Joins The Fray
WiMAX deployments are yet to happen and fixed broadband roll outs drag on. “One reason why Wi-Fi has not taken off in India yet is because providers have not been able to achieve scale; this is what we will be enabling with Tatas,” said Girish Hiremath, Country Head-India, Tomizone, speaking to MediaNama. Tomizone is also speaking to other larger ISPs in India for similar tie ups.
Reliance Communications offers Wi-Fi at 242 Reliance World outlets in India, also in partnership with Tomizone. Tomizone launched a pilot in Bangalore with RCOM and followed it up with an “exclusive” licence to provide Wi-Fi to the outlets, according to Scoop. RCOM has had plans to ramp up this network but it might not help grow the market unless hotspots are deployed in public places.
RCOM and Tata Communications will now face competition from Bharti Airtel, which plans to set up 1000 hotspots by the end of 2010, according to Economic Times. We cant wait! Other Indian providers of Wi-Fi include Sify Wi-Zone, Zylog, iPass, Pronto Networks, NetLink, etc . Boingo, TravelNetCon and Esperto Wireless are some global Wi-Fi providers.
Tomizone runs a network of 17,000 Wi-Fi hotspots and zones in Australasia. In China alone it serves 2000 hotspots. Hiremath was unwilling to share the number of registered users on Tomizone network.
According to its annual report 2009 (PDF) , Tata Communications had rolled out WiMAX networks in Bangalore, Delhi, NCR, Chandigarh and Hyderabad but is awaiting spectrum auctions to boost bandwidth offered. WiMAX auctions are set to take place alongside the much delayed 3G auctions. When asked about the status of the WiMAX projects and future plans, the company spokesperson said he would be unable to comment on them at this point of time.
Piggybacking & Growing The Market
An interesting incentive is being offered by Tata and Tomizone: users who set up their Wi-Fi connections will be able to share it with neighbours and earn credit in the form of an extension of their allotted Internet surfing time to their accounts. “Users will have to sign agreements with service providers and security protocols will be offered by both Tata and Tomizone to determine fictitious surfing. Know Your Customer and cyber compliance modules are built in,” assures Hiremath. User authentication procedures are in line with TRAI’s guidelines, but is piggybacking in India legal?
UK company FON also offered a similar concept – users could sell their excess bandwidth to those without a Wi-Fi account or who have signed onto other providers. FON, however, had to put into place many agreements with broadband service providers who felt that its service was eating into their market. In a country like India where bandwidth is scarce, this idea may (or do we mean should) be embraced warmly by ISPs alike as it will give a boost to the wireless broadband users base. There are just 7.4 million broadband Internet connections in the country, we add around 2 million connections per month. The sector has been suffering sluggish growth but recently there have been some positive indicators, namely, the doubling of sales of netbooks, laptops reaching 0.5 million units. Such offers may pose a risk but should be seen as the panacea to India’s halted growth in broadband.
Key Company Announcements
Dec 19: Taxes worth Rs. 5.07 billion due by Tata Communications (read)
Nov 24: Tata Communications and Middle Eastern operators launch strategic Gulf cable project
Nov 4: CWT and Tata Communications to team up to provide public telepresence facilities
Oct 14: Tata Communications extends connectivity into Australia via PPC1 cable system
Oct 7: NDTV chooses Tata Communications’ content delivery network service for live streaming of channels (read)
Aug 23: Tata Communications opens Value Added Content Services for all internet users
June 25: BT and Tata Communications Sign Global Strategic Voice Services Agreement
May 28: Tata Communications joins WiMAX Forum Board of Directors
May 12: Tata Indicom Broadband launches One World One Account
March 17: Tata Communications increases connectivity from Africa to India and Europe via the SEACOM Cable System