Wi-Fi Penetration Continues to Lag in India despite Govt, Telcos' Efforts: DST Secretary

With Wi-Fi being a key in providing affordable connectivity, the absence of a ubiquitous backend infrastructure is restricting its growth in India despite advancements in technology and availability of spectrum.
Wi-Fi penetration in India
Wi-Fi penetration in India

Wi-Fi penetration in India continues to lag behind despite several efforts by the government and telecom operators, a top official of the Department of Science and Technology said on Thursday.

While speaking at a Broadband India Forum (BIF) event on World Wi-Fi day, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Secretary Abhay Karandikar said the absence of a ubiquitous backend telecom infrastructure is restricting the growth of Wi-Fi penetration in India despite advancement in the technology and availability of spectrum.

"Wi-Fi is a key to providing affordable connectivity and in India we still continue to lag behind in public Wi-Fi penetration in a significant manner despite several efforts made by the government and the operators," he said.

Karandikar said that with mobile services like 5G, 6G moving to higher frequency bands it is becoming difficult to provide networks inside buildings where Wi-Fi can play an important role.

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According to the Department of Telecom data, there are about 2 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots deployed under the government's PM WANI project.

The PM WANI project aims to enhance the proliferation of public Wi-Fi hotspots to create a robust digital communications infrastructure in the country.

Karandikar said Railtel can play a significant role in the proliferation of Wi-Fi.

"Wi-Fi can provide solutions for in-building solutions where connectivity through mobile cannot reach. There is a requirement to have an integrated controller at the operator's end which can actually provide seamless hand off from mobile broadband like 5G to Wi-Fi," he said.

At the event, digital subject think tank BIF President TV Ramachandran mentioned that the industry estimates average consumption per fixed connection per month can zoom up to 600-700 GB and Wi-Fi is must to support those levels of consumption.

BlueTown India, Executive Chairman (CMD), SN Gupta said that India has half a million Wi-Fi hotspots, while as per world average there should be 1 crore Wi-Fi hotspots.

He said that the government has set a target to have 5 crore Wi-Fi hotspots and there is a long way to go to achieve that target.

"One of the biggest asks of the industry is that telecom operators and internet service providers should provide backhaul in a cost-effective manner where government and regulator's intervention is required," Gupta said.

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