Online cab aggregator Ola has launched Ola WiFi, a WiFi service in Ola cabs which will let Ola users connect to it automatically, without having to enter credentials. It is unclear how a user can connect to this WiFi initially, but Ola claims that users with a ‘one time authentication’ can use Ola WiFi without having to login into the network for subsequent rides.
We imagine that the company uses a standard network name and authentication across its cabs to prevent disconnection, but more details are scant, since the company says that it is a proprietary technology. Auto connect WiFi is available for free on Ola Prime, and Ola plans to make this available across all its categories like Micro, Mini and autos (albeit it doesn’t mention if the service will be free or charged). As of now, Ola claims to have 350,000 cabs and 80,000 autos and taxis on its platform.
Unlike Uber which partners with Airtel for 4G WiFi and payment through Airtel Money, Ola doesn’t have a carrier or a WiFi partnership to provide internet.
Ola Prime users used 200TB of data monthly
Ola says that this initiative is a part of Ola’s Innovation Labs, in line with the government’s Digital India initiatives and is inspired from WiFi in public spaces. Honestly, we fail to see the connection with Digital India. Ola claims that over 200 TB of data (timeframe not mentioned) was consumed monthly by Ola Prime users through WiFi, while 65% of users who chose Prime connected to the in cab WiFi. Ola expects ‘massive adoption’ of the auto connect WiFi feature.
Ankit Bhati, co-founder & CTO of Ola said, “..We also see this as the beginning of connected cities, with hundreds of thousands of vehicles connecting millions of users on the go!” Other initiatives under Ola’s Innovation Labs include 2G optimisation for its app, support for 9 local languages and turn by turn navigation features for drivers.
Attempt to make cabs a “place to use the internet”
Interestingly, Raghuvesh Sarup, Head of Categories & CMO said, “.. With over 40 minutes spent on an average cab ride in Indian cities, an auto-connect Wi-Fi experience can make every Ola, the ‘third place’ for consumers, beyond their home and workplace.” In September last year, we asked Uber’s Karun Arya if Uber worked in any way to reduce the average duration of a trip, Arya mentioned that the average trip duration was high in India due to the traffic and it didn’t necessarily work on reducing the duration ‘because people want to go where they want to go.’ He added that UberPOOL, the carpooling service might help in reducing congestion and ultimately trip duration.
Ola Select: In August last year, the cab aggregator launched a rewards-like program called ‘Ola Select’ for its frequent customers where they’d be able to use free WiFi, no-cost upgrades, discounts and ‘exclusive benefits’ from its partners. The following month, it added free WiFi, ‘superior cars’ and best rated drivers, to the Select program for riders taking Ola Prime in Bangalore. Ola Prime is available in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, Chennai and Jaipur and is a drop service through sedans and SUVs.