Delhi to have 11,000 free WiFi hotspot zones soon: Arvind Kejriwal

Updated on Aug 09, 2019 12:35 AM IST

Free Wi-Fi in public spaces was one of the poll promises of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the run up to the 2015 assembly elections.

The Delhi cabinet has approved setting up 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspot zones in the city that would allow smartphone and computer users within 50m radius to avail free internet services, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday.
The Delhi cabinet has approved setting up 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspot zones in the city that would allow smartphone and computer users within 50m radius to avail free internet services, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday.
New Delhi | ByAbhishek Dey

The Delhi cabinet has approved setting up 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspot zones in the city that would allow smartphone and computer users within 50m radius to avail free internet services, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday.

The project will be implemented by the government’s public work’s department (PWD).

Free Wi-Fi in public spaces was one of the poll promises of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the run up to the 2015 assembly elections. The party came to power with a whooping majority but the flagship project never took off despite multiple efforts.

As the party starts to gear up for the next assembly polls, likely to be scheduled for early 2020, the project was given a fresh push early this year.

In these Wi-Fi zones, Kejriwal said, users can access internet at a maximum speed of 200Mbps. Every smartphone and computer user will get a monthly quota of 15 GB free internet data, he said, adding, “The project will take off in another 3-4 months.”

Under the first phase of the project, as many as 4,000 of the hotspots will be set up in bus stands in the city and the rest 7,000 will be set up across the 70 assembly constituencies, with 100 for each segment. The hotspots in the localities would be close to parks, Mohalla clinics and markets, Kejriwal said.

“The outcome and findings of the first phase will help us take calls on further phases,” said Kejriwal.

COST AND BENEFIT

For the project, the Delhi government had allocated 100 crore in the 2018-19 budget and 150 crore in this year’s budget.

“The project will be operated in OPEX (operating expense) service model. The entire capital investment in setting up the infrastructure will be made by the vendor. But the government will bear the operating cost of approximately 100 crore per annum,” said Delhi’s public work minister Satyander Jain.

A maximum of 200 persons will be able to avail the free internet services in each Wi-Fi zone at a time but multiple users will lead to diminished internet speed, said Jain.

Kejriwal said that the project will benefit students and young adults the most. “We have interviewed students and young adults. Despite getting mobile internet at cheap rates they ask about the Wi-Fi project. It shows there is some deficiency somewhere. Plus, this project will give them additional 15 GB.”

The current plan is much better than the target that the government had set for itself in the latest outcome budget in which the Wi-Fi project was marked as “off track”, meaning work on the project had been less than 70% complete. In the outcome budget, the government had said that by 2020, Delhi shall have 10,000 free WiFi zones and those would provide 45GB internet access per user per month, with a maximum of only 4 Mbps speed.

INTEGRATION WITH CCTV PROJECT

In Thursday’s cabinet meeting, the government also approved installation of 1.4 million more CCTV cameras across the city, which will take the total number or cameras under the CCTV flagship project, another poll promise of the party, to 2.8 million.

While the first phase of the CCTV project is underway, the second is likely to start in another 3-4 months, said senior government officials.

With time, the Wi-Fi project will be integrated with the parallel CCTV project and one out of five cameras will be put into use as internet routers, said senior government officials.

Hindustan Times had first reported this on July 1. Full integration of the project would lead to availibility of more than 35,000 internet routers for Delhi’s free WiFi zone project.

IMPLEMENTATION MODEL

By August 2018, the Delhi government had developed three models for the potential project – a hotspot model, an optical fibre model and another model that would require tie-up with existing mobile internet service providers and coupons to be availed for the same.

While the optical fibre model could have ensured best internet service, it was also the most expensive, said a senior government official. The official said the third model would have required low investment, but then it was clumsy and largely dependent on service providers. “The hotspot model was the cost-effective that way,” he said.

The AAP government had initially assigned the project to the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD). In March 2016, they ran a pilot project for three months in north Delhi’s Burari under the hotspot model in which users were given access to 50 GB of data free per day. But Poor connectivity complaints led to failure of the pilot run, senior officials said.

The project was then transferred to the government’s Information Technology department which tried developing models but cast aspersions in its feasibility.

In March 2018, the Delhi government allocated 100 crore for the project in the budget and trasfered the project to the Public Works Department. The department soon responded saying it “lacked expertise” in this area but had to continue with minister Satyender Jain insisting that it should be completed, senior officials said.

By 31 March 2019, the issues related to feasibility were resolved but the government missed the project’s deadline. And then not much progress could happen in the next two months because of the Lok Sabha elections, the officials said adding, the deadline was then shifted to December 31, 2019.

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