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Monetization is the biggest challenge public Wi-Fi faces

The second edition of WiFi India Summit 2019 was organized in New Delhi by Bharat Exhibition to deliberate on the business case for public wi-fi. The panelists noted that with the advent of 4G, data consumption in India has grown manifolds in the last couple of years. Despite the uptake in data, the Indian consumers are not too happy with the quality of service being offered. This makes for a compelling case for wi-fi to coexist along with mobile data but the biggest challenge that public wi-fi faces is that of monetization.

The panelists agreed that generating revenue and recovering the CapEx are one of the biggest challenges that lie ahead for the public wi-fi in India. Talking about the revenue models, Purushottam Kaushik, head – strategy & special initiatives, L&T Smart World and Communications, said: “Vouchers may not be a sustainable model and off-load is the way to go”.

However, Dr Neena Pahuja, director general, ERNET India, MeitY was of the opinion that the coupon system is the way to go. “We have seen the same work well in the past and we have data to show that people are buying `2, and `5 internet coupons. What we need to look at is the process of buying a coupon as it is very cumbersome”. She even suggested that going forward perhaps a system could be made where the unused mobile data balance of users could be provided to a user via wi-fi hotspots.

R. K. Singh, director (operator and planning), BBNL spoke about connecting the unconnected via public wi-fi. He said, “In the first phase we have already connected 1.2 lakh gram panchayats riding on the BharatNet network, which is a Government of India initiative”. Commenting on the challenges for public wi-fi he emphasized that, “the main challenge that we are facing is the security of the end equipment and the power situation”.

While there are steps being taken to improve public wi-fi in India, we are still far behind the other developed countries. Shedding more light on the same, Vikram Deshpande, VP, and head wi-fi business and alliance, Bharti Airtel said, “In India, we are seeing a huge demand for data and about 10-12GB data is being consumed per consumer per month but we are
still lagging behind in terms of proliferation of wi-fi hotspots. Globally, there is one hotspot per 150 users, whereas in India, there is one hotspot per thousands of users”.

Apart from challenges and monetization, the panelists also touched upon the concerns of security for a public wi-fi system. WiFi Summit 2019 was sponsored by Facebook, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Savitri Telecom Services, and Quantifi. The event was supported by the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, and NITI Aayog.

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