India to roll out public Wi-Fi network

Dylan Bushell-Embling
26 Jan 2015

The Indian government plans to roll out free Wi-Fi to 2,500 cities and towns through state-owned operator BSNL.

The government has committed 70 billion rupees ($1.14 billion) for the project, and aims to commence services during the financial year beginning in March, the Times of India reported.

BSNL will base the service around its extensive fiber and cable network, and plans to roll out between 50,000 and 60,000 Wi-Fi hotspots as part of the project.

Services will be free for a limited time, after which users will need to pay for continued access. Subscribers to BSNL and fellow state-owned operator MTNL will be charged only a nominal fee for Wi-Fi roaming over the network.

The rollout forms part of the government's Digital India project to improve internet connectivity in the country.

It also marks an attempt to help BSNL turn around its operations after the operator posted losses for the past four financial years. The company has been struggling with intense competition from private operators in the mobile sector, as well as a continuing decline in its fixed-line subscriber base.

Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has previously announced that he considers restoring BSNL and MTNL to profitability to be a key priority.

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