(with inputs from Brindaalakshmi K)
vodafone-logo
Telecom service provider, Vodafone has introduced a WiFi zone for its customers at the Belvedere Rapid Metro Station in Gurgaon, as a part of its branding exercise at the Rapid Metro Station in Gurgaon, which has also been named after the company, and has significant branding from the company. Apart from branding the entire station, the company has also set up an all women Vodafone retail store and a free WiFi zone for its customers.

What’s not very clear is whether the WiFi network is available only for Vodafone customers, or for all those passing through. Typically, a user won’t spend much time at a metro station, but having WiFi encourages them to spend more time there. We wonder if Vodafone has a limited offering, though: is connectivity limited for, say, 30 minutes, as with Tata Docomo’s (not-particularly-great) WiFi offering at airports? Vodafone will also have to manage security concerns related to people using public WiFi, and the typical way of doing that is by asking users to connect by authenticating using a code sent to their mobile phones.

Frankly, we wish Vodafone was expanding this service to all metro stations, not just the one named after itself. Data connectivity at Metro stations in Delhi is terrible due to two reasons: at crowded metro stations like Rajiv Chowk, the networks are typically jammed because of the thousands of people present at any given time. At some stations, like the one at Chawri Bazaar, the station is so deep underground that mobile networks don’t work. Data connectivity at metro stations will make waiting for trains easier.

India doesn’t have a great track record with public WiFi. Announcements have been made often, but there is little in terms of delivery. Last year, Tata DOCOMO had an exclusive agreement with GMR Airports to offer Wi-Fi services at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, Tikona had planned to launch a Wi-Fi network at the Maharana Pratap Inter-State bus terminus (ISBT) in partnership with the Delhi Transport Corporation.

Last week, Bangalore became the first city to have free WiFi hotspots called Namma WiFi, on M G Road, Brigade Road and four other locations in Bangalore including Traffic and Transmit Management Centres (TTMCs) at Shanthinagar, Yeshwanthpur, Koramangala and CMH Road in Indiranagar. Earlier this month, Telecom operator, Videocon Telecom had partnered with Chinese telecom equipment vendor Huwaei to launch Wi-Fi hotspots in Punjab circle. In March 2013, Idea Cellular had soft launched its WiFi service in 5 select cities – Ahmedabad, Cochin, Pune, Hyderabad, and Vishakhapatnam. At the time of the launch, the company had launched both, prepay and postpaid plans, and claimed to provide up to 2MBPS of broadband speed. We’re not sure of what happened to some of these initiatives.

On a panel discussion last year, Anupam Vasudev, CMO at Aircel had told me that public WiFi doesn’t really work because customers want that WiFi to be free, and are typically unwilling to pay for it.