Government ropes in BSNL to implement free Wi-Fi in 2,500 cities in three years

NEW DELHI,Tasneem Akolawala: Indian government has roped in state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to implement free Wi-Fi in 2,500 cities across the country. This initiative will cost Rs 7,000 crore and will be free initially, but after the limited capacity is over users will have to pay a nominal amount for it.

Leading newspapers report that the roll out will begin in the next financial year (April 2015-March 2016) and will be offered to all mobile operator subscribers in the country. ”The cities where it will be rolled out include Kolkata, Chennai, Lucknow, Dehradun, Hyderabad, Varanasi, Bhopal, Jaipur, Patna, Indore, Chandigarh and Ludhiana,” BSNL chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava told the publication.

BSNL has been struggling since the past four years with its last year (2013-2014) financial losses going up to Rs 7,000 crore. As part of the ‘Digital India’ initiative, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had announced that reviving BSNL and MTNL are on the top of his agenda. With this move, BSNL hopes to lure mobile subscribers through its favorable tariff plans. Landlines are now at the verge of extinction, and private players being so competitive, BSNL is having a hard time to breathe.

“We are sitting on the verge of a data revolution and BSNL has a huge potential here on the back of our landline base and capability. Data capability will be a game changer in the next few years and we will gain a lot through such measures,” Srivastava said.

The report forecasts that the data business is expected to generate Rs 1,500 crore out of Rs 13,500 crore revenue estimated through mobile business.