CSC network to become largest provider of WANI WiFi hotspots in rural India

Common Service Centres (CSCs) are likely to become the largest providers of high-speed internet through hotspots in rural areas under the government’s latest project to connect the entire country through public WiFi under the PM WANI scheme.

The initiative by the government-run network of digital kiosks will provide a major boost by immediately onboarding around 200,000 hotspots under the scheme in rural areas – especially in regions where mobile broadband is patchy or unavailable.

CSCs, run by the Ministry of Electronics and IT, are laying the BharatNet fibre network across the country and already have 200,000 WiFi hotspots in rural areas. These existing hotspots will soon be made WANI compliant, a top official said.

“Around 1.18 lakh villages have already been connected by BharatNet fibre. Every village will need close to 10-20 hotspots so we will have close to 20 lakh hotspots which will be onboarded onto the WANI network of public hotspots,” said Dinesh Tyagi, managing director of CSC e-governance Services.

However, 200,000 existing hotspots will be immediately onboarded as soon as the guidelines for the scheme are released and technical specifications have been updated, he added.

Being WANI-complaint will mean that people moving into various regions and between different hotspots — which could be running on separate operators — will not have to conduct identification or registration again to use the WiFi network.

Also, the data bought in one hotspot could be used across different WANI hotspots.

A public data aggregator will settle at the back end, the customer KYC and the data used between different operators.

Former chairman of the telecom regulatory authority of India RS Sharma called the project revolutionary and one which will bring access, authorisation and accounting (payment) into one app and ensure “seamless connectivity” across India. “The country becomes a grid of Wi-Fi hotspots through WANI. This will be the UPI of the connectivity,” he said. TRAI had made a recommendation for setting up this scheme in 2017. Over concerns that there is no need for public Wi-Fi since mobile data is very inexpensive and almost ubiquitous, Sharma said that wire data is more reliable and the quality of service is also better. IT will also take away some of the load from the mobile networks which have become congested lately.

Earlier this week, the Cabinet cleared the PM WANI scheme, which is aimed at boosting national broadband reach, and is akin to the PCO revolution of yore in terms of its potential for expanding connectivity.

It will enable top download speeds for millions of consumers and a quality video experience anywhere in the country.

“PM-WANI will revolutionise the digital infrastructure of India by enabling easy deployment of commercial public WiFi hotspots. It will also create an additional income stream for small businesses,” tweeted Union Minister for Electronics and IT and Communications, Ravi Shankar Prasad, on Friday.

While making the announcement, he said that a village boy without access to expensive books would soon be able to pursue studies by downloading e-books using public WiFi services. Pricing of such services, though, would be left to market forces.

CSCs have a network of close to 400,000 centres across the country, of which around 150,000 centres are in urban and semi-urban areas which will also be made WANI-compliant Wifi Hotspots.

“The scheme is revolutionary because it allows people to buy internet and offer it to their adjoining areas without the need for any registration or licence,” said Tyagi.

Public data operators will not need a licence and not have to pay any entry fee or go through a registration process, but the aggregators and app providers will be registered within a week of putting in an application to the telecom department.

CSC network to become largest provider of WANI WiFi hotspots in rural India CSC network to become largest provider of WANI WiFi hotspots in rural India Reviewed by TechCO on 12/11/2020 Rating: 5

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