State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) plans to roll out out voice telephony over WiFi (VoWiFi) service through ambitious ‘carpet WiFi’ networks that ensures seamless coverage. “We are going to ask companies to deploy networks with advanced equipment so as to take care of WiFi calls wherein BSNL can provide bandwidth on a revenuesharing model,” BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava told ET. He said it aims to first bring carpet or unbroken WiFi network in select locations or parts of cities through revenue-sharing arrangement with companies bringing in hardware capabilities. Private sector rival Reliance Jio is also testing voice over WiFi or VoWiFi service in select regions, according to media reports.
BSNL though is optimistic about WiFi roll out over free-of-charge airwaves and is identifying tier-II and III cities and highways to deploy networks, which according to the top official, would be in complete conformity with the newly-unveiled policy. “The advantage of WiFi is that it comes with free spectrum charge and we see opportunity in rolling out as many as possible WiFi hotspots in the country,” Shrivastava added. In October last year, the government had notified to delicense 605 MHz of spectrum in 5 GHz band that allowed companies to offer WiFibased telecom services without paying for it. The official also said the telco was ready to deploy incremental optic fibre for WiFi roll out, if needed, although it had 700,000 km of strong fibre network pan India.
“Even for fifth generation (5G) technology services, fiberisation is required. 5G and WiFi have some common elements and require backend fibre,” Shrivastava said. BSNL is also expecting the government to allocate a WiFi scheme to the telco in as many as 10 states where it is putting telecom infrastructure under the Bharat-Net-II programme. The government is eyeing to put up 10 million WiFi hotspots by 2022 to facilitate public data offices, and has mandated five hotspots in each of the 250,000 gram panchayats or village blocks for public utility services under the mega initiative to digitally connect the country.
“Public WiFi is our focus area. We have more than 1million customer accessing BharatNet through WiFi,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan had said, adding that 35,000 WiFi hotspots have already been installed, a number that would eventually reach 1.25 million by March. BSNL is installing 25,000 WiFi hotspots under a government programme, which it aims to complete by the end of the current fiscal, in addition to a commercial initiative with WiFi hardware partners.