In a bid to push internet adoption in semi-urban and rural India, the government will be setting up over 7.5 lakh public Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of 2018. The exercise will be carried out by all leading telcos, including Airtel, Vodafone-Idea, Reliance Jio, and the state-owned BSNL, along with a host of internet service providers. The hotspot network will be laid across gram panchayats (GPs) first, ToI reported. Also Read - Reliance JioFiber plans with free Voot Select subscription: Check plans, price, and other benefitsAlso Read - Internet down: Zomato, Paytm, Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon, Myntra, many other global services suffered massive outage
“The idea is to enable e-governance and digital-development initiatives through provision of high-speed, and affordable internet infrastructure,” Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan reportedly said. She added that the process of laying the networks had already started. “We have reached 75,000 GPs by now, and the network is up there. Our target is to reach 1 lakh GPs by this December,” she said. Last year, India had only about 31,000 public Wi-Fi networks, which is grossly inadequate for a country of 1.3 billion. ALSO READ: Odisha launches open government data portal Also Read - Airtel introduces new postpaid plans with more data, refreshes Family postpaid plans too
Moreover, India has the world’s second-largest internet population that will cross 500 million next year. Other developed internet economies like the US and the UK have significantly more public internet hotspots at 98 lakh and 56 lakh respectively. While ‘Digital India‘ is a great catchphrase, most parts of the country are plagued with poor internet connectivity. While telcos are rolling out faster 4G networks, non-urban areas are mostly deprived of them. “We plan to hasten the high-speed rollout in rural and semi-urban through Wi-Fi,” the telecom secretary added. ALSO READ: Over 1.5 million Indians already use Google s free Wi-Fi network in 19 railway stations
Last year, Google had started the roll out of free Wi-Fi services across Indian railway stations. Over 1.5 million people use its services in more than 100 stations. Earlier this year, Facebook too launched its Express Wi-Fi that is available across 700 hotspots in four states. More than 20,000 such hotspots are slated to roll out and Facebook has partnered with Airtel for the purpose. The government, meanwhile, has mandated three Wi-Fi hotspots in every gram panchayat. And each network would have a data capacity of 1GB. Additionally, the telecom ministry would also release a tender that would kickstart the mega project.