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Monday, October 13, 2003

WiFi on the Way Up in India

In don't know what Rajesh thinks about this, but it seems in some areas of India Wifi is expanding rapidly:

Wi-fi – hot and finally here

Everyone – the Tatas, the Bharti group, Satyam Infoway, to name a few – is leaping into wi-fi , reports Surajeet Das Gupta

You are a Delhi-based executive jetsetting your way to your company’s headquarters tonight in London to make a key presentation. But on the way to the airport you suddenly remember that you have forgotten to download information from the internet to update your presentation. Not to worry. You can now connect your laptop wirelessly to the internet from any place at the airport’s emigration hall as you wait to board the flight. All you will have to do is to walk to a Satyam Infoway (Sify) outlet at the airport and subscribe to the company’s wireless fidelity (wi-fi) service. Sure, the service will be priced – you’ll pay Rs 60 for an hour of surfing. You’ll have to borrow a wi fi PC card (if you already don’t have it in-built in your laptop), punch in a password and, presto, the world of high speed internet will be at your fingertips. You can now download information speeds that are nearly five to six times faster than your dial-up connection at home.

Sify is among the few Indian internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom companies that are taking their first, tentative steps to offering wi-fi services. The Delhi-based Bharti group is set to offer wi-fi services at homes. Bharti already offers broadband DSL services (an always-on internet connection) nationwide to its fixed line customers. It will offer the same subscribers the option of subscribing to wi-fi services at home as an add on. All they’ll have to do is to replace a DSL modem (required for the always-on service) with a wi-fi-enabled modem by paying an extra Rs 3,000.

Says Jagbir Singh, group chief technology officer at Bharti’s fixed line business: “We expect over 80,000 broadband customers by the end of this year. Of them at least 1,000 will subscribe to wi-fi services.” The Bharti group has also tied up with Intel, the chip producer, to jointly promote wi-fi in the country. Intel wants to sell wi-fi-enabled PC cards and push the sales of PCs that are embedded with Intel PC cards. The Bharti group is talking to hotels and fast food chains on setting up hot spots at their premises. The group’s talks on introducing wi-fi at the exhibition halls at New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan (run by the Trade Fair Authority of India) are at an advanced stage. Not to be outdone, Tata Teleservices, the fixed line and limited mobile services company, has tied up with Barista (the Tata group has a stake in the coffee chain).

Wi-fi services are already on offer in 10 Barista coffee outlets in Mumbai and will be introduced in New Delhi before Tata Teleservices rolls out wi-fi services nationwide. The Tatas have identified three key market segments. One, the group wants to create enterprise hotspots for company sales and marketing forces located in franchisee or distributors’ premises. Two, it will try and persuade companies to replace wired local area networks (WLANs) with wi-fi. Three, it wants to create more hot spots at airports, shopping centres, malls and hotels.

Sify has rolled out wi-fi services at Chennai international airport and will launch these in Delhi. Sify already runs cyber cafes at these airports and so can offer wi-fi services at a very low incremental cost. Says Srikant Joshi, who heads Sify’s wi-fi initiative: “At the moment we get between 2 and 10 users a day as it is still in its infancy, though the average usage varies from 30 minutes to one hour. We are now at a learning stage.” Last but not least, international long distance services company Data Access too is looking at the wi-fi business closely. It’s working on a pilot project to make a university campus in the UK wifi enabled.
Source: Business Standard

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