It may be good news for consumers with patchy mobile data service that the state government plans to set up WiFi service in eleven cities across Karnataka, but the announcement needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
According to the proposed plan, users will get a maximum 30 minutes of free usage time or 100mb of free data. After that, users will have to pay for any additional data they want to use.
In 2014, one such project by the Karnataka government had failed to take off after a pilot programme at Bengaluruâ€™s MG Road had failed. Officials said that the private company then did not find it viable, which is why the project was dropped.
If we have seen a case of this project failing earlier, the question of why itâ€™s being implemented arises.
Speaking to TNM, Rajkumar Srivastav, Adviser to the IT Department of Karnataka said that the government is confident of the project being successful this time.
â€śWe have had a series of meeting in the past seven months, where we had several meetings with all the players from Karnataka and they all are interested,â€ť Srivastav told TNM.
â€śIn 2014, it was only one private company, but now we have learned from developments across the world and there is a huge experience behind us,â€ť he added.
The cities included in the project are Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, Hubballi-Dharwad and Tumakuru.
According to officials of the Karnataka Biotechnology and Information Technology Services (KBITS), the service will roll out early as the end of February 2018.
The state government has floated a tender for the project through a government order. KBITS officials said that the government will allow private companies to rent infrastructure like government buildings and poles on a monthly basis. However, the officials say that the government will not decide the places.
â€śIt is a zero-funded project. The government is not spending any money. The government has only fixed prices of renting its infrastructure, which makes life easier for the companies,â€ť Srivastav said.
Private companies are free to choose where they want to set up the WiFi zones. The zones are likely to come up in areas which see a lot of people.
At a time when mobile data penetration is high and pricing is competitive, why would such a service work?
â€śCurrently the service at Kempegowda International Airport is very successful. Mobile data is not accessible uniformly across the city. Moreover, the WiFi will be priced competitively when compared to the mobile data prices,â€ť Srivastav said.
When asked about how safe these WiFi zones will be, officials said that the service will follow the guidelines of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), but refused to divulge any further details on the issue.