The technological revolution is rising rapidly across the length and breadth of the country, and with ‘Digital India’ growing with time, the government has decided to give a major push to Wi-Fi deployment across India. The government has decided that it will facilitate the setting up of as many as 7.5 lakh public-internet hotpots by the end of next year.
The rollout — mainly focussed at providing high-speed internet in semi-urban and rural areas — will be carried out by private operators such as Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and state-owned BSNL, apart from internet service providers (ISPs), Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said.
“The idea is to enable e-governance and digital-development initiatives through provision of high-speed, and affordable internet infrastructure,” Sundararajan told TOI here.
Wi-Fi, while being a backbone of digital infrastructure across many countries, has seen a lacklustre growth in India with only about 31,000 hotspots in 2016. In comparison, top-ranking countries like France, the US and the UK had significantly higher numbers at 1.3 crore, 98 lakh, and 56 lakh hotspots, respectively.
Sundararajan said that with the laying of optic fibre network across gram panchayats (GPs), the key resource for setting up Wi-Fi hotspots will be in place. “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.”
The telecom ministry — which will come out with a tender on kickstarting the mega Wi-Fi rollout — has also called in a high-level meeting of key representatives from various state governments to work out methods for digital delivery of services in areas such as health, education, and rural development.
The telecom secretary said that while telecom companies have been rolling out faster 4G networks across the country, many of these are slow to reach non-urban areas. “We plan to hasten the high-speed rollout in rural and semi-urban through Wi-Fi.”
The government wants to have three Wi-Fi hotspots per GP, and is aiming to provide 1GB of data per panchayat.