The Telegraph
Saturday , January 25 , 2014
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Free Wi-fi on tech city streets
- Bangalore offers five public hotspots

Bangalore, Jan. 25: Bangaloreans who do not subscribe to data packages will no longer have to meet their mobile browsing needs by visiting cyber cafes or restaurants with Wi-fi hotspots.

India’s infotech capital today became the first city in the country to launch a free public Wi-fi facility, which will be available at five specific locations for now.

The Wi-fi hotspots went live at 3.30pm after a brief launch at the MG Road shopping area. The other areas covered are CMH Road in Indira Nagar — an upscale residential-cum-shopping area — and the bus terminuses in Shanti Nagar, Yeshwantpur, and Koramangala.

On offer is free connectivity of 512kbps for 30 minutes every 24 hours to any single Wi-fi-enabled device — a laptop, mobile phone or tablet.

Some 2,000 people can concurrently use the facility — made available through one or more powerful routers installed in a particular location — without affecting the speed, sources said.

The “Namma Wi-fi” facility was a budget promise by chief minister P.C. Siddaramiah and has been launched by the state infotech department in collaboration with D-Vois Broadband Pvt Ltd, a city-based firm.

State infotech minister S.R. Patil said the facility would gradually be expanded to 10 more spots in Bangalore and to other Karnataka cities and towns such as Mysore, Mangalore and Hubli-Dharwad.

Jagadish Shenoy, director (operations) of D-Vois, said: “There are two ways of connecting to Namma Wi-fi. One way is through an Android app, which is already available. The other is by opening your browser, which will automatically go to the Namma Wi-fi page where you can enter your mobile phone number and receive a pass code as a text message.”

Once a user enters this pass code into the page, he or she can go online for 30 minutes on that particular device.

“We have power back-up, so no issues if power fails around the hotspot areas,” Shenoy said.

Within weeks, iOS and Windows phone apps are likely to be launched for devices on those platforms.

The idea of free Wi-fi at public spaces was mooted by the Karnataka Information and Communication Technology Group (KIG-2020), headed by T.V. Mohandas Pai, who was formerly with Infosys and is now a director with the Manipal Group.

“We are all very happy that Bangalore has scored again. But it’s now time for cities like Calcutta, Delhi and Mumbai to follow suit,” Pai told The Telegraph.

“It’s not expensive at all and very easy to install and offer. Free Wi-fi in public spaces would also give a tech-savvy image to cities. This is a great feature to attract tourists.”

Pai said private companies, especially telcos, should sponsor such facilities across the country. “It doesn’t cost much for telcos, who already have fibre-optic networks running all over the place.”