Wi-Fi boom in slow down mode

New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, March 22 | Updated: Mar 23 2005, 05:44am hrs
Hitches like a low user base of laptops and the resistance from the property owners to install Wi-Fi access points is slowing down the boom of Wi-Fi services in India. This is evident from a look at a total number of Wi-Fi hotspots in the country which is about 200 public hotspots since 2004. There are over 50,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the world.

Playing it cautiously, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Reliance Infocomm are holding on to their plans to roll out Wi-Fi services due to the low volumes of laptops in the country.

Reliance Infocomm president Sanjay Mashruwala said, Wi-Fi in the West has taken off in a big way simply because you have a large number of people carrying laptops. India is way behind in terms of the number of people who are using laptops and therefore there are a limited number of people who need Wi-Fi.

He added, since this is the situation, the cost for this service is also higher. Wi-Fi is not on our agenda and we will think about it only if there is a strong demand.

But the zeal among the other telecom players to offer Wi-Fi is clear from their chalked-out expansion plans. Among other players, companies like Mahangar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), Bharti Tele-Ventures, Dishnet are currently offering Wi-Fi services.

MTNL, which has currently installed 25 hotspots in Delhi, is working on taking up the number to 100 hotspots. MTNL is also about to launch its Wi-Fi services in Mumbai.

We are not able to get the approval from property owners to install the access points due to which, our Wi-Fi expansion plans have slowed down, MTNL general manager (IT) AK Bharagava said. MTNL offers Wi-Fi services at the rate of Rs 100 for 3 hours with a minimum speed of 21 mbps. Further, MTNL claims that it is the only company in the country that has integrated all its Wi-Fi hotspots. This integration of hotspots allows MTNL Wi-Fi users to use a common account for access while allowing for a common billing and authentication.

Meanwhile, the countrys largest GSM operator, Bharti claims that it is the only one in India to offer Wi-Fi services to residential users. But again like Reliance, Bharti agrees that the growth of Wi-Fi will ride only on the growth of laptops.