The government on Sunday approved a framework for the proliferation of public Wi-Fi networks through PM Wi-Fi Access Network Interface or PM WANI scheme. The initiative aims to elevate wireless internet connectivity in the country. This would entail a complete framework involving multiple elements — Public Data Office (PDO), Public Data Office Aggregators and app providers.
“No licence, no registration, and no fee would be applicable for the PDOs, which could be small shops or even Common Service Centres,” communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday.
What is PM WANI Wi-Fi scheme?
As part of this scheme, the government aims to provide internet connectivity through Public Data Offices (PDOs). The scheme aims to not only boost the “ease of doing” business but also will do the “ease of living.
“The scheme would enable our small shopkeepers to provide Wi-Fi service. This will boost incomes as well as ensure our youth gets seamless internet connectivity. It will also strengthen our Digital India mission,” PM Modi said in a tweet.
How PM WANI Wi-Fi scheme will work?
The public network will be set up by the public data office aggregators (PDOAs) to provide Wi-Fi service through the public data offices (PDOs) spread throughout the country. It will help accelerate the proliferation of broadband internet services through a public Wi-Fi network. The government will also develop an app to register users and discover the WANI-compliant Wi-Fi hotspots in the nearby area and display them for accessing internet service.
No license fee will be charged for providing broadband internet services. So using public Wi-Fi hotspots will greatly encourage its penetration across the country. A customer wanting to access the network from a PDO’s premise can do so only after an eKYC authentication.
No. Similar attempts have been made by both Facebook and Google in the past. Facebook had introduced its Express WiFi service in India to help mobile network operators or internet service providers ‘build, operate, grow, and monetize their Wi-Fi business.’ However, the program was shut down later. The major difference between Facebook Express WiFi and PM WANI scheme was that the social media giant sold vouchers, priced between Rs 10-20 for a day or Rs 200-300 for a month. This vouchers could be used to access the service wherever it was available.
Meanwhile, Google had partnered with RailTel to provide free WiFi at Indian stations and around the globe. Started in 2015, the scheme was expanded to 400 railway stations. It registered 2.6 crore user logins in a month and over 9,491 TB of aggregated data. It had the same fate as Facebook’s Express WiFi service and was shut down earlier this year.
The challenge for both these schemes was the availability of better data plans that gave access to internet for cheaper. And, this is the same thing PM WANI scheme might find tough to counter. With cheaper and faster mobile data available across the country, it will be interesting to see how many people actually end up joining the PM WANI WiFi scheme. For now, it seems like a step in the right direction.