Idea WiFIIdea Cellular has soft launched its WiFi service in 5 select cities — Ahmedabad, Cochin, Pune, Hyderabad, and Vizag. The company has launched both, prepay and postpay plans, and claims to provide upto 2MBPS of broadband speed. (Hat Tip: @benoyxj)

Customers in those cities will have to call the Idea center or fill their contact details on the Idea Website. The Idea sales agent will then perform a physical visit to check the coverage at the installation address. If the area has coverage, the customer can apply for the connection. To apply, Users will have to pay one time non-refundable installation charges. Although the company has not disclosed installation charges, it’s tariff plan page says that users will have to pay Rs.562 installation charges on 3 months validity plans and Rs 500 installation charges on monthly plans.

Once installed users will get a unique user login Id & a random but unique password at the time of activation. On the first login to the Idea WiFi Customer Web Self Care portal, users will have to change the password.

Tariff Plans

Currently, the company has monthly and bi-annual plans on post-pay connection and three months and bi-yearly plans on prepaid connections. The postpay plans appear to be unlimited plans with a cap, and the download speed after bundled data usages throttles at 256KBPS or 512KBPS depending on the plan. It also offers a 3GB three months prepay plan for smartphone and tablets for Rs 550.

Idea WiFI   Tariff Plans1


Idea WiFI   Tariff Plans2

WiFi Service in India

In December 2012, there were reports that Reliance Industries (RIL) is planning to roll out its long awaited 4G service in Mumbai and Delhi in mid 2013 and RIL’s plan to launch MiFi devices which will convert the 4G signal to a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing users to access 4G speeds across various Internet enabled devices on the go.

Aircel had started rolling out WiFi hotspots in February 2011 and had claimed to have 50,000 WiFi Zones across India, however the telco has stopped promoting the service during the past year and it is not clear on where the initiative stands at the time of writing this article. Besides this, companies like Spectranet and O-Zone Networks also offers public wi-fi hotspots across various locations like BaristaMcDonalds (pdf), Hard Rock Cafe, DLF Malls, Ansal Plaza, Trident Hotels among others, but the coverage is quite limited. Sify and Tata Indicom had also tried paid WiFi rollouts in the past, with little success.

The difference between what Aircel was trying to do, and what Idea appears to be doing is that Aircel was creating WiFi hotspots, whereas Idea appears to be offering personal Internet access; although a placeholder on the Idea WiFi homepage does mention WiFi hotspots, we didn’t find any information on hotspots. These appear to be early days for the service.

If WiFi hotspots do become ubiquitous in the country, it could also possibly reduce the burden from the overburdened 3G networks, by offloading it to these Wi-Fi hotspots. Last week, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt commented on the bandwidth issue in India: “The telecom industry here is under-capitalized, and they don’t have enough bandwidth. The Internet here feels like America in 1994, with tremendous upside.”