Wi-fi hotspot pouches: Internet from a sachet

Source: The post is based on the article “Wi-fi hotspot pouches: Internet from a sachet” published in “The Indian express” on 25th July 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3- Infrastructure ( Digital ) & Awareness in the fields of IT

News: In this article author is talking about PM-WANI, a system in India that allows people to access the internet using local Wi-Fi hotspots. The system is cheaper and helps those who can’t afford normal internet rates. This can improve internet access in rural and poor areas of India.

About digital infrastructure transformation in India

Connectivity Boom: India has over a billion mobile connections and 4G coverage. Data cost has dropped from Rs 300 per GB to Rs 7 per GB.

Digital Transactions Rise: Due to policies like Net Neutrality and UPI, digital transactions are increasing.

Data Demand Surges: India’s monthly data consumption is 19.5 GB per person. There’s a gap between demand and supply, especially in rural areas.

Low home broadband penetration: Currently, India’s home broadband penetration stands at one of the lowest in the world, hovering at around 10 per cent.

What is PM WANI?

WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) is a concept introduced by TRAI in 2017 to create interoperable public Wi-Fi hotspots. The vision was to offer connectivity via local providers known as Public Data Offices (PDOs). Building on the success of the WANI pilot, the Indian government introduced PM-WANI, which was approved by the Union Cabinet in December 2020 to implement the WANI vision on a broader scale.

Benefits of PM-WANI:

Affordable Connectivity: With PM-WANI, over a million people are accessing unlimited Internet daily by paying just Rs 5 to 10. For comparison, students are now opting for this “sachet internet” over chips or soft drinks.

Boosting Local Economy: Local shops and households can become PDOs, setting up Wi-Fi hotspots. This not only promotes affordable internet usage but also augments their earnings.

Infrastructure Utilization: Existing infrastructure by companies like RailTel and GAIL, which is currently underused, can be effectively tapped into for PM-WANI.

Benefits for ISPs and Telcos: These major providers can sell more bandwidth by transforming their customers into retailers.

Bridging the Digital Divide: With a low home broadband penetration of around 10% in India, PM-WANI offers an opportunity to improve internet access, especially in underserved areas.

What should be done?

Promote PM-WANI: Given the successful pilot of WANI and the subsequent approval of PM-WANI in December 2020, there’s a need to actively promote this initiative. Over 1.5 lakh hotspots have been set up, benefiting millions.

Engage Stakeholders: Governments, startups, and civil society should collaborate to enhance the reach of this Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI).

Capitalize on Underutilized Infrastructure: Infrastructure from companies like RailTel and GAIL should be tapped into more effectively, boosting PM-WANI’s potential in underserved areas.

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