wifi flickr

State run telco and internet provider BSNL is working on setting up 40,000 WiFi hotspots across the country to make up for the lack of its own 4G services, reports NDTV. As of now, BSNL claims to have deployed 500 WiFi hotspots, with the plan to increase it to 2,500 by the end of this financial year.

It’s not clear if BSNL will allow only its own customers to use the WiFi, or let anyone use the network for a small fee. The latter option would be better for the company, which has been struggling to keep customers, as it provides customers with an option to use BSNL’s services without changing their SIM cards. Other than this BSNL claims it will also set up 25,000 mobile towers in the country, investing Rs 5,500 crore for the infrastructure.

Facebook tieup for WiFi: In November, Facebook and BSNL entered into a partnership to create 100 WiFi hotspots in rural areas in India, for which Facebook would invest Rs 5 crore per year to buy bandwidth from BSNL. This initiative would start off with 100 villages, with Rs 5 lakh spent per year per site for buying bandwidth from BSNL. Note that in June, the telecom operator tied up with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to provide WiFi hotspots for tourists at the Taj Mahal. In February, it launched free WiFi in Varanasi and in April, it launched public WiFi in Hyderabad.

MediaNama’s Take: Public WiFi should be able to offer 4G or better speeds. Indeed, BSNL claims it’s WiFi hotspots will offer better speeds, although this remains to be seen. Overall, this seems to be a good alternative to launching its own 4G services, as not only does BSNL avoid spectrum charges, it can also provide WiFi to customers of other telecom operators. Hopefully, the telco will provide speeds better than 2 mbps, its minimum broadband speed, which is significantly slower than 15-30 mbps speeds experienced on Jio’s 4G network, or 10-20 mbps speeds experienced on Aritel’s 4G network.

Other developments in public WiFi:

– Google is planning RailWire WiFi, which aims to provide free WiFi across railway stations in India.

– In June, Airtel won the mandate for the launch of Wi-Fi services in Gurgaon from the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG).

– In April, Airtel also sought permission from the West Bengal government to set up Wi-Fi hotspots across Kolkata in competition with Reliance Jio, which had tied-up with the West Bengal government to introduce 4G-enabled free Wi-Fi service in some parts of the city.

– Sistema Shyam, which operates under the MTS brand in India, tied up with Indian Railways in April last year, to offer WiFi services at railway stations across India.

Image source: Flickr user Arkangel