Public Wi-Fi can play a key role in driving ubiquitous connectivity and digital inclusion in India, as explored in an Analysys Mason report – ‘Accelerating connectivity through public Wi-Fi: Early lessons from the railway Wi-Fi project.’
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 report, prepared through the lens of Google and Railtel Public Wi-Fi project, support the 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.
David Abecassis, partner at Analysys Mason, said: “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 fiber broadband.”
According to Abecassis, 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 provided valuable insights in further developing public Wi-Fi as a service that can truly achieve the Digital India vision,” he added.
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. ISPs 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.
Analysis Mason found that around 100 million people would be willing to spend an additional USD 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 USD 20 billion between 2017-19 and at least billion per annum thereafter.