The Mountain View tech giant, Google, is all set to widen its horizons by providing Wi-Fi services in public places such as malls, cafes, and universities. Early in the year, in a bid to provide internet connectivity beyond railway stations, it had partnered with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) to bring 150 Google Station hotspots to Pune, which was part of the Pune Smart City Project.
In September 2016, Google had rolled out free Wi-Fi services across railway stations in India in collaboration with the Indian Railways and RailTel, which focuses on providing broadband and VPN services at railway stations. With the success of the endeavor - given that it has connected 400 railway stations across the country with Wi-Fi and covers 8 million people every month - the US-based company expanded the service to Mexico and Indonesia.
In order to give fruition to its current objectives, Google is liaising with various stakeholders, which include state governments, telecom operators, and internet service providers (ISPs). K Suri, Director, Partnership, India (Next Billion Users) at Google India, told the Economic Times, "Telcos are something we are definitely talking to for things like Wi-Fi coverage and data offload to decongest networks. Those are the reasons why telcos want to be in this space. Wi-Fi is in the nascent stages here." Further, "Whosoever is interested in public Wi-Fi ecosystem, we are engaging with them to drive the access. Our philosophy is: how do we connect the next billion?"
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have already collaborated to create FireFly Networks which aims to transform the mobile data landscape in India by creating, managing, and monetizing Wi-Fi Hotspots. In just a year, FireFly has established its presence in educational institutes, hospitals, malls, cafes, public hangouts, markets, institutional premises, transit points, and corporate parks across Mumbai, NCR, Pune, and Bangalore. It will soon expand its footprint in almost all key cities and urban centres in India. Concurrently, the government is pushing a 'Public Open Wi-Fi' project which aims at offering affordable internet connectivity in tier-2 and 3 towns in India.
Public Wi-Fi is expect to connect 40 million new users to the internet by 2019, as reported by The Economic Times, and around 100 million people may spend an additional $2 to 3 billion per year on handsets and cellular mobile broadband services to experience faster broadband on public Wi-Fi.