India Public Wi-Fi Initiatives Grow

Public Wi-Fi is assuming a bigger role in Internet access in cities in India.

The government of India has said it will create facilities offering public Wi-Fi in 2,500 cities and towns across the country over three years, with the network built and operated by state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL).

The city of Delhi also separately is working on a municipal Wi-Fi plan of its own, that might use a freemium business model.

For its part, Bharti Airtel Limited (Airtel) announced that Uber riders across India will be able to pay for their trips using Airtel Money, the firm’s mobile wallet service. As part of that plan, Uber vehicles will be outfitted with Airtel 4G connections, offering free Wi-Fi inside Uber vehicles.

The government of Bihar, meanwhile, plans to offer free Wi-Fi at all colleges within the state.

Though an introductory no-charge promotion is expected for the BSNL service, it will be “for fee,” analogous to the model of many prior municipal broadband efforts or the amenity Wi-Fi offered by firms such as Boingo.

The initial phases of service are expected to start with government buildings and other anchor institutions such as colleges, in Kolkata, Chennai, Lucknow, Dehradun, Hyderabad, Varanasi, Bhopal, Jaipur, Patna, Indore, Chandigarh and Ludhiana.

At least in part, the networks are viewed as a possible way to support BSNL mobile operations, which have lost market share to rivals.

Usage allowances and minimum speeds remain a bit fluid.  
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