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Tata Teleservices to set up 4000 hotspots; shifting focus to WiFi?

Tata teleservicesTata Teleservices is planning to set up 4,000 WiFi hotspots in nine cities across India in the next two years, reports Economic Times. The company started setting up WiFi hotspots at airports, restaurants, cafes and other businesses nine months ago and it currently has 540 of them across the country. This includes WiFi hotspots in Delhi and Hyderabad airports and we have noticed a similar set up in Starbucks across India (a 50/50 joint venture between Starbucks Coffee Company and Tata Global Beverages) as well.

The publication quoted Avinash Gabriel, chief operations officer of the WiFi business as saying that the number of logins to its service has increased to 4.4 lakh from 1 lakh in April last year. The average time spent in each session is 40 minutes, with an overall 35 million minutes of usage as of January, up from 18 million minutes in April. Gabriel says that it is easier for Tata Teleservices to set up WiFi hotspots across the country than rolling out 3G and 4G, especially because it has fibre laid out to take care of the bandwidth.

Tata Teleservices was the only telco among the qualified bidders that didn’t pick up spectrum either in the 1800MHz band or the 900MHz band during the recent spectrum auction. Speculation doing the rounds then was of Tatas looking to exit the telecom industry altogether with Vodafone being the prospective buyer.

By depending on WiFi hotspots, it looks like the company is trying to avoid bidding wars for spectrum. However, the service looks less attractive for users who might want a network connection all the time irrespective of the location. On a panel discussion last year, Anupam Vasudev, CMO at Aircel had said that public WiFi doesn’t really work because customers want that WiFi to be free, and are typically unwilling to pay for it. That being the case, telcos seem to be offering WiFi connections to its customers, in crowded areas where data quality generally takes a hit.

Competition: Gujarat government is also rolling out WiFi hotspots across the states and it is reportedly in collaboration with Reliance Jio which will use BWA spectrum for backhaul. Jio is also apparently planning to launch large scale WiFi networks in Mumbai and Delhi and the company has reportedly inked a contract with Ericsson to set up around 30,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across commercial buildings, offices and malls in these regions.

Government owned MTNL had stated plans to launch WiFi hotspots with speeds of 8Mbps for its customers in Mumbai and Delhi, while Vodafone had 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. Idea Cellular had also soft-launched its WiFi service in 5 select cities – Ahmedabad, Cochin, Pune, Hyderabad, and Vizag.

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 while Videocon Telecom had partnered with Chinese telecom equipment vendor Huawei to launch Wi-Fi hotspots in Punjab circle.

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