State-run telecom service provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will invest Rs 6,000 crore over the next three years to set up some 40,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, its chairman-cum-managing director Anupam Shrivastava has said.
“We are now thinking of rolling out Wi-Fi hotspot through capital expenditure model also. We are in the process of having our tender ready. We will be floating our tender and put our own equipment. We will be doing everything,” Shrivastava told IANS in an interview. “We have a targeted to have 40,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in course of next three years. We will be investing Rs.6,000 crore for that,” he said, adding: “For our initiative with the private sector, we have set a target of 250 locations in 2015-16 with 2,500 hotspots.”
A Wi-Fi hotspot offers clients access to the Internet over a wireless local area network. The company has already rolled out Wi-Fi hotspots in 70-75 locations in the country. But these have not been fully deployed by BSNL. The state-run firm has roped in private players for the majority of the work. “When we did an analysis of BSNL, we found that we neither have 4G licence nor the money to buy spectrum. Yet we knew that 4G will be the in-thing for the future generation. We also realized that our biggest strength is the landline structure that we have,” Shrivastava said. “But we have optical fibre network almost to the tune of 700,000 kilometres countrywide. The natural thing that comes to us is to utilise these resources. Then we found Wi-Fi is the new technology that is coming and taking on 4G area,” he added. “So Wi-Fi became our obvious choice.”
The chairman explained that earlier the company was not investing on Wi-Fi roll-out and opting, instead, for a revenue sharing model with private players. “We floated expression of interest through which we asked private parties to install the Wi-Fi hotspots, maintain it for five years and manage the sales and marketing functions as well. We at BSNL provide the back-haul connectivity through optic fibre — at 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps,” he said.
The ballpark investment to construct five Wi-Fi hotspots in one place is around Rs.10 lakh. Shrivastava also expressed optimism that capital employed on Wi-Fi operations will be realized soon. “But for that, we have to reach certain threshold. The moment we complete this year’s target of 250 locations, the revenue stream will start ploughing the investments back.” Talking about BSNL’s inherent strengths, notably as a landline service, Shrivastava said in the next two-three years even rural exchanges will become next generation network NGN) exchanges.