India at the dawn of the Wi-Fi revolution

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Recently, Internet access has become a necessity for carrying out digital transactions, checking e-mail, taking online courses and working from home. During long car journeys on the road, it is possible to access the Internet using a mobile data service, provided that an adequate 3G / 4G signal is available while driving.

Since the work-from-home scenario is likely to be the norm for some time yet, employees with long bus and train trips can perform office work if a good 3G / 4G signal is available from mobile networks throughout the route or the Wi-Fi facility. is there on the buses / trains. Many ISPs have installed 3G / 4G towers on major train routes / stations to provide good signal coverage.

BSNL and other ISPs have established Wi-Fi Access Points / Access Points (APs) at major bus stations, train stations and airports to provide access to Internet service. Free access for a certain period of time will be available and the charges will then have to be paid electronically on a pay-as-you-go basis. To comply with DoT guidelines for user authentication, the login process is implemented in the above Wi-Fi systems. After choosing the Wi-Fi network (among the available Wi-Fi networks), you must enter your mobile number and the OTP will be sent. After entering the OTP, Wi-Fi access is provided.

RailTel has installed Wi-Fi access points / access points at major stations. The fiber optic network laid along the railway track is used to ensure the return. This Internet service is called “RailWire”.

As mobile networks cannot provide a continuous 3G / 4G signal all the way, railways have provided Wi-Fi solutions on major trains. Internet access is provided via satellite and 2G / 3G networks. The system consists of an on-board satellite tracking antenna, multiband antenna and Wi-Fi broadcast equipment. Train is equipped with a number of wireless access points that provide coverage to through coaches. The main broadband link to carry Internet traffic is provided by satellite and in the event of satellite network unavailability, the 2G / 3G link acts as the link, ensuring 99% availability of Internet service. Howrah-Delhi Rajdhani Express was the first train to be equipped with this facility, followed by Shatabdi, Duranto and Tejas.

The DOT granted licenses to provide in-flight Wi-Fi service to BSNL and other ISPs in 2018. Wi-Fi in airplanes provides gadgets with an internet connection with flight mode enabled. There are two connectivity systems for in-flight Wi-Fi; Air-to-ground and satellite. The air-to-ground system works similarly to the mobile network. In this system, the antenna of the tower closest to the mobile network projects the signals upwards (unlike the antennas of the mobile networks which project the signals downwards).

Antennas installed under the planes receive the signals from the towers and send them to the on-board server. In the satellite Wi-Fi system, a satellite tracking antenna is installed on the top of the aircraft which receives the signals from the satellite and sends them to the on-board server. These signals are processed by the on-board server providing the Wi-Fi. The air-to-ground system operates transparently, until the aircraft flies over a space without a tower. In this case, the satellite system takes over. There will be no break in service. Wi-Fi on planes will be slower and more expensive than the same on the ground. In accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Civil Aviation, in-flight Wi-Fi will be available when the flight reaches a minimum altitude of 3000m (it takes 4 to 5 minutes to reach this altitude after the plane takes off) to avoid interference with land mobile networks.

Fifty-five airlines already offer in-flight Wi-Fi service around the world. Spicejet and Vistara wish to offer this service.

BSNL is the first ISP to obtain an In-Flight and Marine Connectivity Service Provider (IFMC) license. In collaboration with INMARSAT, it offers an in-flight Wi-Fi service. This service is offered in the Ka (26.5 GHz to 40 GHz) and L (1-2 GHz) frequency bands.

We will soon be able to enjoy the Internet while flying around the country! Hopefully BSNL will be the first ISP to offer this service which will increase their much needed revenue.

BSNL and other private ISPs have established Wi-Fi hotspots / hotspots in major tourist centers, cafes, shopping malls, etc., to provide internet access to visitors. BSNL has installed Wi-Fi “Dabhas” in its major customer service centers where people can browse the Internet. They have provided Wi-Fi solutions to some rural telephone exchanges. As employees are allowed to “work from anywhere” they return to their hometowns and the availability of Wi-Fi in rural areas will be useful for their office work.

The Indian government approved in December 2020 a program called PM-WANI (Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) to provide Wi-Fi services across the country. It is decided to open approximately one crore of data centers across the country under this program. These centers will function as public data offices (PDOs) and Wi-Fi access points will be installed there.

The return of these Wi-Fi access points will be provided by the telecommunications service providers / Internet service providers. No registration or license will be required for PDOs. In addition, there will be no charge for them. They will work on the lines of previous BSNL PCOs. Small traders can apply for a PDO and provide Wi-Fi service to the population. This will increase their income and the availability of Wi-Fi will increase everywhere. PM-WANI is expected to bring a major Wi-Fi revolution to the country by addressing the digital divide. This program will also provide employment opportunities.

To provide Internet access to people on the move, whether by road, rail or plane, Wi-Fi facilities are available. Access to the internet facility will make the trip hassle-free and one can use the journey time productively. Nowadays, due to Covid, passengers do not talk to other passengers on buses / trains / planes and therefore having an internet connection is a good hobby for them.

(Author is Retired Advisor, Department of Telecommunications (DOT), Government of India)


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