Indian telecom operator Tata Teleservices that is well behind Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications, announced its Wi-Fi strategy to beef up revenue.
Tata Teleservices, a joint venture of Docomo of Japan and the Tatas, is planning to set up around 4,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in nine cities in India in the next two years, Economic Times reported.
The loss making telecoms wants to leverage the rapidly growing demand for mobile Internet from smartphone users across the country. Smartphone shipments in India rose 172.2 percent to 41.1 million in 2013 from 15.1 million in 2012.
Globally, mobile operators are augmenting their 3G and 4G deployments with Wi-Fi hotspot services. For instance, China Mobile is planning to deploy a million hotspots and Japan’s KDDI is planning to grow its 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to 100,000. They want to utilize data business: global mobile data traffic is expected to reach 16.84 million terabytes by 2014.
Comparing with the Wi-Fi plans of China Mobile and KDDI, the two year target of Tata Teleservices is small. Tata Teleservices, along with Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra), operates in more than 450,000 towns and villages across the country.
“Over the 5 years from 2013 to 2017, telecom operators will spend a cumulative $8.5 billion on carrier Wi-Fi equipment,” said Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave and carrier Wi-Fi at Infonetics Research.
Also read: Telecoms to spend $8.5 billion on Wi-Fi
Earlier analyst reports suggest that fixed-line operators and ISPs continue to deploy Wi-Fi to extend existing Wi-Fi hotspot services, cable and DSL operators use Wi-Fi as an enhancement for their broadband services, and many operators will soon be upgrading their existing access points to new Wi-Fi standards, such as the forthcoming 802.11ac protocol.
Mobile Wi-Fi access points are expected to experience the highest compound annual growth rate — 86 percent — through 2016 as mobile operators seek a closer integration of Wi-Fi with the mobile network, according to Infonetics Research.
Global public Wi-Fi hotspot numbers are set to grow to 5.8 million by 2015, according to research published by the Wireless Broadband Alliance.
Informa says the growth in W-Fi hotspots will primarily be in three types of location: wide-area outdoor hotzones, such as parks; local-area outdoor hotzones, such as popular tourist attractions, and transport hubs, such as airports.
ABI Research said mobile operators are feeling the squeeze with spectrum and data capacity. Wi-Fi is an alternative option to relieve some of the smartphone-related demand and congestion in networks.
Wi-Fi will be a booming market because Wi-Fi is embedded in 99 percent of the smartphones today and with smartphone Wi-Fi usage climbing, Wi-Fi in mobile networks has become hot. Industry bodies like the Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wireless Broadband Alliance are pushing for standard specifications like Hotspot 2.0, which would make Wi-Fi connectivity more seamless and easy to use.
This means that country like India will have more Wi-Fi hotspots. Interestingly, 65.8 percent of the total smartphones shipped in the country were 3G smartphones. If telecoms start leveraging their 1800 MHz spectrum for FD-LTE services as well, there will be further growth in Wi-Fi demand in India.
Tata Teleservices Wi-Fi update
Tata Teleservices, which supported the recently concluded Auto Expo 2014 with a free Wi-Fi service, is seeing tremendous growth in data consumption on smartphones.
“From about 1 lakh logins in April last year, we now have 4.4 lakh logins, where the average time spent in each session is 40 minutes. So roughly, we’ve clocked 35 million minutes of usage as of January, up from 18 million minutes in April,” said Avinash Gabriel, chief operations officer of the Wi-Fi business at Tata Teleservices.
Tata Teleservices has set up 540 Wi-Fi hotspots countrywide since April. Some of its Wi-Fi deals include the T3 international airport terminal in New Delhi, Wankhede cricket stadium in Mumbai, besides five-star hotels and cafes in several cities.
Tata Teleservices’ Wi-Fi hotspots ride on the company’s existing fiber networks along with that of Tata Communications, another group company of the Tata Group.
Recently, DoT Secretary MF Farooqui said 2,50,000 gram panchayats, which will be connected through the broadband, will become Wi-Fi hotspots that will generate demand, local language applications and will bring disruptive level change in the way local entrepreneurship will drive adoption of broadband.
Pix source: a teaser from Panasonic for its smartphone launch