Free WiFi hotspots off to welcome start in Delhi, but a few niggles remain
The free WiFi scheme was one of the key poll promises made by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the run up to the 2015 Assembly polls, which the party won with a thumping majority later.Updated: Dec 21, 2019 07:16 IST
A day after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal rolled out the long-awaited free internet WiFi scheme, scores of people trudged to the 109 functional hotspot zones of the city on Friday. Most such residents tried connecting their phones to the WiFi system more out of curiosity than need.
The free WiFi scheme was one of the key poll promises made by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the run up to the 2015 Assembly polls, which the party won with a thumping majority later.
On Friday, several users of the service appreciated the move as a step towards Delhi becoming a smart city. Some, however, questioned the scheme’s advantage at a time when smartphone penetration is high and almost every person has access to affordable and cheap mobile internet data.
“This is something new. I had heard about such services in airports and some railway stations. But never before at a bus stop,” said Jaydev Gupta, a chartered accountancy aspirant, who often boards a bus from ITO, one of the spots where the free WIFi zone was inaugurated. On Friday, Gupta used the services for a while.
Several users, however, complained about the service taking a long time to connect. But senior government officials said that could be because of too many users trying to get connected to a particular hotspot at the same time.
According to the officials of the Public Works Department (PWD) – the agency which has executed the project – the radius range of each hotspot will be 100 metres. Every user will be given a free data limit of 15 GB per month, with a data consumption limit of 1.5 GB per day. On an average, the maximum speed of the connection of the data will be 200 Mbps, but the estimated speed will be between 100-150 Mbps.
The PWD official said each hotspot will be able to support 150-200 users simultaneously and an app has also been created for this purpose, which will require the users to fill their KYC details and then use the OTPs received to access the hotspot connections.
HT tried accessing the service near the School of Planning and Architecture in Central Delhi and succeeded after walking closer to the WiFi modem – in this case, a bus stop near the income tax office from where Kejriwal had launched the scheme on Thursday.
Most visitors who were spotted trying to avail the free WiFi experience on Friday were young adults who had smartphones with access to mobile internet.
“I don’t understand what difference it will make. People have easy internet access these days on their phones. It probably would have been more useful, especially for students, around five years ago,” said Anantika Mehrotra, a student who was trying to connect to the WiFi near Mandi House roundabout.
Under the project, 11,000 WiFi hotspots would be installed across Delhi and these hotspot connections would support 22 lakh users simultaneously. Out of these 11,000 hotspots, around 4,000 will be installed at bus stops while the remaining will come up at various market places and locations suggested by the Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) such as parks, colonies. The plan also entails to integrate the CCTV cameras with the WiFi hotspots installed in the city, and the responsibility of the maintenance of the equipment would be with the Delhi government.
The government had set aside a budget of around Rs 98 crore for this project, which was planned in 2015 but could not be executed in four years for a number of factors — which includes technical expertise, lack of bidders on several occasions and bureaucratic hurdles.