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PM-WANI initiative has the potential to do what the PCOs have done for voice calls: Balbir Bora, Founder & CEO Whitewater Solutions

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Recently, the Indian Government approved the setting up of Public Wi-Fi Networks by Public Data Office Aggregators to provide public Wi-Fi service through Public Data Offices without levy of any license fee. This landmark announcement has the potential to accelerate proliferation of broadband Internet services through Public Wi-Fi networks in the country. Express Computer spoke to telecom expert, Balbir Bora, Founder & CEO Whitewater Solutions, who shares with us, on how this initiative can make the rural populace a part of the digital evolution of the country, and connect Indians like never before

Some edited excerpts:

The Union Cabinet recently approved the setting up of public Wi-Fi networks by Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) spread across the country. How will this initiative help in bringing cost-effective mass connectivity?
In the last few years, data consumption in India has witnessed an exponential surge among the end users and reached a peak by global standards. This statistic is expected double in the coming years. The demand for data is same in urban and rural areas, subject to different underlying factors. Despite this, there is still a large portion of rural users with no access to the Internet.

The project PM-WANI is ideal for countries like India with a dispersed population, geographical and infrastructure limitations. It aims to deliver the local public Wi-Fi hotspots to the unexposed mass of Indian populace through an affordable system and interface which is compatible to the existing devices. Mr Ramachandran, President of Broadband India Forum, has said, “Wi-Fi hotspots will continue to offer more affordable options for the common man and can become an affordable means for mass public interaction.”

The underlying carrier in this technology will be wireline infrastructure. This will improve the congestion over mobile networks and will lead to better service inthe PSTN network.

Do you believe that will bring upon a broadband revolution in the country just as low cost PCOs did many years ago?
The PM-WANI initiative has the potential to do what the PCOs have done for voice calls and can be considered more of an Internet revolution, going well beyond just ‘ease of doing business’ to genuinely empower citizens.

PDOs like a local tea shopkeeper or local general store owner can work as a mini-ISP without pursing the license from the authorities and paying a license fee. The set up can be done according to the socio-economical needs and business potential of the area.

A digitized future can be imagined with millions of PDOs spreading and connecting the users across blind spot regions of the country, driving micro & small businesses, empowering the masses, helping them to grab the train of fast-moving technology and connecting Indians as it was never before.

What will be the impact of this policy on telecom service providers? Is it positive or negative? How can telecom service providers leverage this as an opportunity?
We see this as a positive step for the Telco’s, since it has the potential to reduce the traffic congestion of the service provider’s TDM network and improve the QoS (quality of service) for mobile data users.
The TSPs can leverage this opportunity as the internet service to PDOs and PDOAs will ultimately be delivered by the service provider. There is the advantage of increased reach and penetration to rural areas and it will increase business for the telco.

What are some of the immediate opportunities that are available for private players in setting up public Wi-Fi networks?
The project PM-WANI says that any entity can become a PDO and provide Internet connectivity service to users. The cumbersome process of taking registration from the authority is not levied by the government. The backhaul requirement to start these spots will be met by authorized TSPs/ISPs who are experienced players in the market and know their way around.

In the scenario, any private player can jump on this ship and be a part of the project. Rural backward areas are major areas where the pace in business can be achieved. Government school campuses, small hotels, private premises, local shops, etc., are a just a few examples of private players that can benefit from this initiative.

Do you believe that a new ecosystem will be created due to this policy?
This initiative can make the rural populace a part of the digital evolution of the country from a developing to a developed nation. A digital ecosystem can be created with easy reach of new technologies, new education trends, social connection, work from home/anywhere, and omni-directional development for the urban and rural mass.

There are a lot of opportunities for IT jobs in this direction, from developing apps, ensuring QoS to fixing the bugs in the network. With the growth of internet reach, cybersecurity professionals will be required for lawful interception, ensuring network security, etc. The need of a locally present data center may also come in demand which will lead to growth of opportunities in manufacturing, testing, and make-in-India movement. It is a win-win situation. It also opens opportunities for the local entrepreneur, where he can provide premium service to his customer without much overhead and investment.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


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