The adoption of digital platforms in the country has gained momentum during the pandemic. Internet demand is expected to grow manyfold in the coming years. The installation of Wi-Fi hotspots will enable more people to stay connected and receive the benefits of the internet. As part of its “Digital Telangana” efforts, the state government recently set up over 3,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in Hyderabad under the Hy-Fi project. With this, Hyderabad has become one of the first cities in India to deploy a public Wi-Fi network on such a large scale. Each of the 3,000 Wi-Fi hotspots is powered by Atria Convergence Technologies’ (ACT) SmartFiber Technology, which will ensure a superfast and safe internet experience. During the event, Jayesh Ranjan, principal secretary for IT, Industries and Commerce, Telangana government, spoke about the government’s vision to make internet connectivity available to all and leverage the opportunities that the digital world provides. Edited excerpts…

Digital Telangana is the flagship programme of our IT policy launched in 2016. Through this programme, the state government envisions creating a very robust and inclusive digital infrastructure. We have already taken several steps to take the digital infrastructure programme forward. We are currently undertaking a very ambitious T-Fibre programme, as a part of which we plan to connect every household in the state with reliable internet, beginning with the rural areas.

We have also realised that Wi-Fi is a key component of the digital infrastructure in cities. To this end, we have introduced a dedicated programme called Hy-Fi to establish public Wi-Fi hotspots across Hyderabad. In 2017, we did a mapping of the city and found approximately 3,000 locations of public gatherings, where people assemble in large numbers. It was observed that if Wi-Fi facilities were made available at such places, they could prove to be extremely beneficial for the masses.

The project in part was facilitated by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, which supported ACT, the project execution partner, in the process of obtaining approvals for road cutting, laying overhead cables, installing information boards, etc. Similarly, the metro rail department has been instrumental in encouraging the use of Wi-Fi services on its entire network.

Hy-Fi project at a glance

In 2017, under the central government’s digital umbrella, the Telangana government launched the pilot version of the Hyderabad city Wi-Fi project, Hy-Fi. The pilot project saw the government partner with internet service providers (ISPs) to provide free Wi-Fi at approximately 1,000 public locations across Hyderabad. ACT Fibernet was the first ISP to come forward and set up 1,000 Wi-Fi hotspots as part of the pilot. This enabled its existing customers to access high speed internet across Hyderabad city, even outside their homes. Given the tremendous success of the pilot project, the Telangana government decided to set up more hotspots across the city and requested ACT to implement the project. ACT has since implemented more than 3,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the city. These hotspots include malls, tourist locations, metro stations, public offices, police stations, government schools and colleges.

The deployments have been done on a pro bono basis. The government on its part has created an enabling environment by helping the company with approvals, permissions, etc. The capex, including the cost of setting up the infrastructure such as hotspots, was borne by ACT.

ACT is enabling the hotspot facility by leveraging its gigabit-enabled fibre-to-the-home technology, which spans across the city of Hyderabad. The ISP is deploying reliable high capacity access points with a range of up to 100 metres. Further, each hotspot is enabled with 1 Gbps of internet speed. Guest users get a speed of 25 Mbps each for a 45-minute period free of cost, post which they can opt for a recharge.

The way forward

We are realising that the focus on digitalisation will increase enormously post-Covid. In fact, every aspect of our life is eventually going to get digitalised. In the Covid times, the state government had the rare distinction of converting more than 1,000 kirana stores, or neighbourhood grocery stores, into digital stores. Even in the bastis in the city we were able to ensure that children attended online classes. In addition, basti dawakhanas were equipped with telemedicine facilities.

I do hope that the network that we have created today gets replicated in other larger cities and towns in Telangana, and the state can remain ahead of the curve when it comes to providing digital infrastructure.