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Wireless Net access set to mushroom
Joji Thomas Philip in New Delhi
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April 04, 2005 09:05 IST
Here is a tip for those planning to buy a laptop: shell out Rs 2,000-3,000 more but go in for a Wi-fi enabled one.

Hotspot numbers in India are set to jump 10 times to touch 3,500 by December, following the government's decision to delicense the 2.4 Gigahertz and the 5.1 Ghz bands, on which the platform works.

Hotspots are locations where one can access the Internet without the help of cables. At present there are around 350-odd hotspots in the country. Industry analysts expect most airports, hotels, cafes, restaurants, major railway stations and hospitals will opt for wireless connectivity.

Internet service provider Dishnet has already started work on a Rs 250 crore (Rs 2.5 billion) project to set up 6,000 hotspots across 180 cities, of which over 2,000 will be operational by December.

According to Paramjit Singh Puri, head (India and Asia Pacific), Pronto Networks, which has bagged the contract for setting up Dishnet's Wi-fi centres, the first commercial launch of about 200 hotspots is scheduled for June.

Chennai-based Microsense, which currently operates around 200 hotspots, has also announced plans to set up an additional 1,000 centres over the next six months.

Bharti Tele-Ventures and Tata Teleservices [Get Quote] executives said they were also in the process of adding Wi-fi platforms to their network. However, service providers are also gearing up for launching WiMax, a technology that offers wireless connectivity over a 2-10 km radius.

Operators like Tata, Reliance [Get Quote], Bharti, MTNL [Get Quote] and BSNL have started testing over Motorola's Canopy-based WiMax platform. The first deployment is expected by October.

"Currently, unbundling prevents internet service providers from entering the broadband market. Delicensing brings in new meaning to corporate connectivity, and many companies will now become WiFi-enabled. With standalone players entering this sector, competition will drive numbers," said Amitab Singhal, president, Internet Service Providers Association of India.

Even public sector companies have joined the bandwagon. "From about 25 hotspots at present, we have set a target of 200 in Delhi and Mumbai by December," said an MTNL executive.

"We have just completed a successful pilot project. We will soon float tenders for setting up 300 hotspots, covering the metros and major cities," said a BSNL executive.

Unlike in the past, customers will no longer have to change the settings on their laptops according to the location. "We are offering countrywide inter-service roaming along with a slew of value-added services such a voice protocol network, nationwide support, post-paid and pre-paid packages," said Deepak Talwar, director, Micronesia Pvt Ltd.

The setting up of hotspots and WiFi networks will also change the future of how business is conducted. With WiFi on handsets, there is bound to be a steep demand for smart handheld devises that are used in department stores, hospitals, shopping complexes and other business sectors.

To top it, WiFi tariffs in the country, which were earlier among the highest in the world, have witnessed a 100 per cent fall over the last 12 months. For instance, Microsense's pre-paid 100-hour card now comes at Rs 990.

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