Public Wi-Fi is key to India’s digital inclusion ambitions: report

public wi-fi india
Image credit: Denis Shevyakov / Shutterstock.com

Public Wi-Fi can play a key role in driving ubiquitous connectivity and digital inclusion in India, according to a new Analysys Mason report.

Despite fast increases in number of people connected (316 million at the end of 2017, compared to 200 million the previous year), mobile broadband penetration in India stood at only 31% at the end of 2017, still significantly behind many of India’s peers.

The new report states that the Google and Railtel Public Wi-Fi project supports the Indian government’s ambition under the draft NDCP to reach 5 million access points in 2020 and 10 million in 2022, to provide an all-pervasive coverage and internet connectivity, for 600 million Indians.

The report further outlines an opportunity to develop a wider connectivity ecosystem with public Wi-Fi as a key component, which can not only benefit users and wireless ISPs, but also telecom service providers, handset manufacturers and venue owners. TSPs in particular can benefit by monetizing demand for faster mobile broadband and higher data volumes on their networks, as people get used to fast speeds and ubiquitous connectivity.

The report found that around 100 million people would be willing to spend an additional $2 to $3 billion per year on handsets and cellular mobile broadband services as a result of experiencing fast broadband on public Wi-Fi. In addition to driving productivity improvements from high speed Wi-Fi for the overall economy, public Wi-Fi can also translate into tangible benefits to GDP, by around $20 billion between 2017-19 and at least $10 billion per annum thereafter.

Here’s an infographic.

public wi-fi
Image credit: Analysys Mason

“In the last few years, India has made significant progress in driving mobile data usage, thanks to improved networks, and low cost data. But to really achieve the connected India vision, India will need to further invest in developing public Wi-Fi as a complement to mobile and fibre broadband,” said David Abecassis, partner at Analysys Mason. “The Google and RailWire project to deploy high speed Wi-Fi across 400 stations has shown that there was a technical and operational solution to providing high-quality public Wi-Fi to millions of Indians nationwide on affordable terms. The success of this rollout and Reliance Jio’s 80,000 public Wi-Fi access points as of mid-2017 provide valuable insights in further developing public Wi-Fi as a service that can truly achieve the Digital India vision.”

The report further highlights that the investment in public Wi-Fi can further unlock an opportunity for mobile operators to offload excess data traffic from cellular networks, and deploy advanced technologies such as Hotspot 2.0 for ensuring interoperable roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi.

The full report is available to download here [PDF].

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