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How Team Fadnavis pulled off 500 WiFi spots for Mumbai in just five months

The 500 WiFi hotspots in Mumbai, as part of the first phase of the project, went live on Monday, less than five months after the chief minister first announced it in August last year on the floor of the state assembly.

mumbai Updated: Jan 11, 2017 09:19 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
The 500 WiFi hotspots in Mumbai, as part of the first phase of the project, went live on Monday, less than five months after the chief minister first announced it in August last year on the floor of the state assembly.
The 500 WiFi hotspots in Mumbai, as part of the first phase of the project, went live on Monday, less than five months after the chief minister first announced it in August last year on the floor of the state assembly.(HT)

There’s a reason why chief minister Devendra Fadnavis could steal a march over Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after delivering on the WiFi promise for India’s financial capital.

It is said that it works to lower public expectations and tone down on promises than go overboard.

With the public WiFi system, Fadnavis government did just that.

The 500 WiFi hotspots in Mumbai, as part of the first phase of the project, went live on Monday, less than five months after the chief minister first announced it in August last year on the floor of the state assembly.

But, even before the CM made this announcement, the physical infrastructure for setting up these hotspots were ready. The CM office and the Department of Information and Technology that worked for this project decided to take a call for smart city much earlier in 2015 when tenders for the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance project for the city got finalised and work for this project got underway.

“The main hassle for setting up WiFi hotspot infrastructure for a city like Mumbai is the laying of optic fibre as it involves ducting, digging etc. So, when the infrastructure for the CCTV project was being set, we decided to piggy back on it and lay additional fibres for the WiFi project,’’ said a senior official, involved with the project.

This information was, however, kept closely guarded to avoid political debate on it within the government and public discussion outside.

“There is cynicism over public deadlines and often when projects get discussed threadbare, they are delayed endlessly. With the WiFi project, since everyone was agreeable with the concept, we decided to keep the details under wraps. That’s also the reason CM chose to tweet about the WiFi spots going live, keeping the spirit of digital Maharashtra alive instead of having a formal launch that would lead to saffron allies bickering,’’ said a source close to CM.

By August, when Fadnavis announced the project, the state government already had ready 500 locations where public WiFi could be given.

Fadnavis as a result had even announced an earlier release date for the entire project in November itself. But, the team working on it took a little longer to zero in on good suppliers for the routers.

“The tender for that had to be very clear as we wanted to avoid small-time players. We zeroed in on Hewlett Packard and Fortinet for the devices and it was decided that Larsen and Tubro would be the system integrators while the bandwidth would be from Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL),’’ added an official from IT department.

For every WiFi spot, four routers have been used and ultimately with 1,200 spots, at least 6,000 such devices will be used. In December last year, the project was soft launched to check its functioning and on Monday instead of making formal inaugurations, it was decided to launch it with just tweet.

“With this project we have taken the city to the next level. 500 WiFi spots went live from Monday. Soon 1,200 such hotspots will be there covering all major areas in the city offering public WiFi. We will offer all government services on this and usher in smart transportation next,’’ said Fadnavis.

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Mumbai is first WiFi city in India, gets 500 hotspots