India’s Department of Telecommunications has reportedly approved plans to implement WiFi interoperability that will allow users to stay connected across all public WiFi hotspots in India when users are in range. Called Bharat WiFi, the DoT has jointly proposed it with all telecom companies, internet service providers, and virtual network operators. The group will work to collaborate and work on bringing WiFi public hotspots on one platform through roaming agreements.
Under the current rules, a user is required to fill a form and enter a one-time password (OTP) sent to a mobile number to connect to public WiFi hotspots, which at times becomes a fault point when the SMS is not able to reach the user. The government is now looking at letting users log in once and stay connected with all public hotspots across the country without any need for refilling the details again or waiting for a new OTP.
The inter-ministerial panel Digital Communications Commission (DCC) may consider the proposal in its next meeting. The DCC meeting was earlier scheduled for Tuesday, which has now been deferred.
Under the National Digital Communications Policy 2018, the Narendra Modi government has targetted enabling deployment of 5 million public WiFi hotspots by 2020 and 10 Mn by 2022. Last year, Union Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said that the Indian telecom industry will roll out a million WiFi hotspots in the country by December 2019.
“Bharat WiFi, a country-wide common inter-operable platform of one million WiFi Hotspots, owned and operated by telecom service providers, internet service providers and virtual network operators will be rolled out across the country,” an official statement had said at the time.
In May, state-owned telecom operator BSNL joined hands with internet major Google to expand its WiFi footprint that will help BSNL customers connect to high-speed internet services on WiFi. “The challenge for the solution was to not only ensure a vast network of coverage (over 5 Mn WiFi hotspots in two years) but to also ensure ease of use for citizens coupled with robust security which would satisfy the needs of the government,” Rajan Mathews, director-general of Cellular Operators Association of India, said about the government’s plans.
According to an Analysys Mason study, public Wi-Fi programmes such as Bharat Wifi will connect 40 million new users to the internet by 2019 and that around 100 million people would be willing to spend an additional $2 to 3 billion per year on handsets and a similar amount on cellular mobile broadband services, as a result of experiencing fast broadband on public WiFi in India. India has the second-highest internet population of over 460 Mn internet users that account for 12% of global users.