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Google's report: Public WiFi to contribute USD 20 bn to India's GDP by 2019

New Delhi: Public Wi-Fi can play a key role in driving ubiquitous connectivity and digital inclusion in India, as explored in an Analysys Mason report -- ‘Accelerating connectivity through public WiFi: Early lessons from the railway WiFi project’, published on Tuesday.

Pic Courtesy: Getty Images

Despite fast increases in the number of people connected (316 million at the end of 2017, compared to 200 million the previous year), mobile broadband penetration in India stood at only 31% at the end of 2017, still significantly behind many of India’s peers.

The report further outlines an opportunity to develop a wider connectivity ecosystem with Public Wi-Fi as a key component, which can not only benefit users and wireless ISPs, but also telecom service providers, handset manufacturers and venue owners.

The Thrift Savings Plans (TSPs), in particular, can benefit by monetising demand for faster mobile broadband and higher data volumes on their networks, as people get used to fast speeds and ubiquitous connectivity.

“In the last few years, India has made significant progress in driving mobile data usage, thanks to improved networks, and low-cost data. But to really achieve the connected India vision, India will need to further invest in developing public Wi-Fi as a complement to mobile and fibre broadband. Google and RailWire project to deploy high speed WiFi across 400 stations has shown that there was a technical and operational solution to providing high-quality public Wi-Fi to millions of Indians nationwide, on affordable terms. The success of this roll out and Reliance Jio’s 80,000 public Wi-Fi access points as of mid-2017 provide valuable insights in further developing public Wi-Fi as a service that can truly achieve the Digital India vision,” David Abecassis, Partner at Analysys Mason, said.

Major Highlights:

  • The widespread availability of fast, unconstrained and free Wi-Fi in 400 stations shows the scale of the latent demand for broadband in India
  • Mobile operators can more directly monetise this demand
  • Venues are increasingly subscribing to the idea of public Wi-Fi on their premises that can benefit their broader business
  • Proliferation of public Wi-Fi can provide a significant boost to the government’s Digital Ambition like ubiquitous connectivity, digital inclusion and enabling infrastructure
  • Prevalence of free Wi-Fi in Google / Railtel / Indian Railway partnership and in venues such as Starbucks India (provided by Tata) allows their customers to come and spend time in shops.
  • Mobile operators should also use Wi-Fi to offload excess data traffic from cellular networks, with some of the cost saving potentially reinvested in more public Wi-Fi coverageIt minimizes duplication of investments
  • It ensures level playing-field between operators
  • Wi-Fi ISPs have a clear addressable market
  • Productivity improvements from high speed Wi-Fi for the overall economy can also translate into tangible benefits to GDP.



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