Since 2014, successive state governments have announced this project but have not been able to deliver.

Ktaka govt again announces free WiFi for users in Bengaluru will it work this time
news Internet Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - 22:04

The Karnataka government has once again announced that Bengaluru city would get free WiFi hotspots. Since 2014, successive state governments have announced this project but have not been able to deliver. 

Speaking to the media at the Bengaluru Tech Summit, Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for IT and BT, Dr CN Ashwath Narayan said that the city would get 4,000 WiFi hotspots all across the city. 

“All 800 sq km of Bengaluru will soon be connected with the internet,” Ashwath Narayan said. 

The Karnataka government has joined hands with ACT Fibernet to provide free WiFi connectivity.

“We expect this to boost tourism,” he added. The entire project is expected to take nine months or a year to be completed before it is made available to the public. 

However, it may be noted that the project is still at the proposal stage and ACT Fibernet has not signed any agreement with the government yet. 

Under the proposal, the first one hour of internet access would be free, after which people can choose to pay for the WiFi at the rate of Rs 50 per hour. As part of the proposal, people who opt to continue using the WiFi will enjoy uninterrupted speed of 15 mbps. 

The project is estimated to cost ACT Fibernet Rs 100 crore without involving any investment from the state government. 

In response to a question from TNM, Bala Malladi, CEO of ACT, said that the money for this extremely expensive project would come out of their CSR funding. “Our intention is to offer seamless connectivity to all citizens,” he said.

He also said that they want to offer WiFi as a service to people, and that a similar public WiFi project is already underway through ACT’s fibernet network, in Hyderabad and Chennai.

The state government, however, has agreed to subsidise the cost of setting up hotspot towers for ACT. ACT says that they are also ready to pay the huge electricity bills that come with setting up a WiFi hotspot network across the entire city, through regular electricity metering.

The WiFi hotspots are also proposed to have CCTV cameras installed along with them. These cameras will be managed by the Bengaluru City Police.

In January 2018, former Deputy Chief Minister Dr G Parameshwara, had announced that 5,938 free WiFi hotspots would come up across the city. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had also announced that ACT Fibernet would provide hotspots at 766 locations, while Honeycomb and DVOIS were to provide 2,516 towers each, and Indus Tower would provide the remaining 140 towers. 

Indus Towers had also begun setting up these towers in a few areas in the city in October last year. However, the project was stopped due to high operational costs. According to BBMP Commissioner Anil Kumar, the other partners dropped out of the project as they were not sure about the profits they could make by installing these hotspots. 

“They were not sure that people would switch from using 4G to paying for the free hotspot after one hour. Besides, the operational costs, they said, were too high and risk of returns was also high,” he said. 

Since 2012, several governments have announced free WiFi schemes. The first scheme was announced in 2014, and the project was piloted on MG Road. Even when the public WiFi was established, the connection was found to be extremely slow. For example, the public WiFi that was available during the initial stages, when the MG road metro was open to the public in 2014, was barely useable, with speed less than 2G. This project was sidelined. Thereafter, in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the government made announcements for providing free WiFi in the city. These projects did not come to fruition as internet service providers (ISPs) were not keen on taking up the project. 

However, ACT Fibernet has promised that the WiFi is guaranteed to be fast, and that the speed would be 15 mbps.

In a similar exercise, Kerala had announced in July this year that 1,887 free WiFi zones have been set up in select areas across all districts of the state under the K-Fi project of the state government and that more were being set up to meet the targeted figure of 2000 free WiFi centres. 

Read: Want to make Karnataka innovation hub of Asia: CM Yediyurappa at Bengaluru Tech Summit

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