Monday, March 16, 2015

AAP Government invites suggestions on Public WiFi Network for Delhi - My submission

Delhi Dialogue Commission has come up with a set of ten questions for a wider consultation. AAP govt has invited suggestions, viewpoints and recommendations to each of the 10 questions at My brief response to each of those questions along with links to more detailed studies are submitted below:

Q. 1. How do you define public wifi? Kindly suggest case studies on public wifi from other parts of the world?
Answer: Definition of Public WiFi: Public WiFi is any Wireless Local Area Network that is based on the (IEEE) 802.11 standards and is open for use by general public.
Some case studies on public WiFi:
  1. City of Adelaide Attracts Visitors with Free Outdoor Wi-Fi . Link:
  2. Case study: Birmingham rolls out free public Wi-Fi. Link:
  3. Case study: City of York connects citizens with Ruckus Wi-Fi. Link:
  4. Global Developments in Public Wi-Fi - Wireless Broadband. Link:
  5. Rethinking Wireless for the Developing World. Link:

Q. 2. A. What should be the ideal level of access to public wifi? Can it be made available right upto your doorstep?
Answer: WiFi should cover the entire city, ie, all areas inhabited by people (at least). The benefit should ultimately reach all sections of society irrespective of their economic strata (at their doorstep).
Q. 2. B. If yes, what is feasibility and tech challenges? Or should it be available at well-defined public neighbourhoods?
Answer: A combination of Wired & Cellular network infrastructure can be leveraged to build a WiFi network throughout Delhi in a phased manner.

Phase - 1) Develop HotSpots by installing WiFi routers/repeaters at public places by leveraging existing telephone/fibre optic lines laid out by by various PSU/Private Companies.
Phase - 2) Reach out to Residential areas that have well laid out wired communication lines.
Phase - 3) In this phase extend WiFi through 4G LTE compatible WiFi routers/repeaters in areas where fibre optic lines are not laid out.

Q. 3. What is the infrastructure and technology required to create the public WiFi network?
Answer: In areas where telecommunication/Fibre Optic lines have been laid out WiFi routers/repeaters can be connected to such lines by installing them on existing electric/telecommunication poles.

In areas where, Fibre Optic Lines are not laid out, 4G LTE compatible WiFi routers/repeaters may be used. Since, 4G networks are not yet operational in Delhi, the Government may opt to participate in the Project Loon experiment of Google. The balloon powered internet service would be cost efficient and provide wide coverage to all areas of the NCR. It is claimed by Google that a single Project Loon balloon that floats in the stratosphere can provide internet coverage to an area extending to 80KM. Thus, just two balloons will be sufficient to provide 4G LTE coverage to the entire National Capital Region. Further, these balloons have a life of about 6 months, therefore they need to be replaced regularly. Regular replacement provides the opportunity to do the necessary hardware & software technology upgrades continually.
The following links provide more details about Google’s Project Loon.  
Articles on Google’s Project Loon
  1. Google balloons, “cell towers in the sky,” can serve 4G to a whole state. Ars Technica - Link:
  2. Inside Project Loon: Google's internet in the sky is almost open for business. The Verge: Link:
  3. This is how Google will control Project Loon balloons’ altitudes. The Next Web - Link:

Q. 4. What should be the essential services that a government should aim at providing through public WiFi?
Answer: All types of government services that have interface with common people can be offered through WiFi. (For example, Ration Card applications, DTC bus tickets/passes, Aadhar, Election Commision Voter ID card, Transport related services like Driving License, Vehicle Registration, etc.)  Government could tie up with Non Profits like Khan Academy ( to make their high quality educational content available on the network in local languages. Khan Academy may also be requested to curate their content according to the local syllabi. The combination of free WiFi and curated educational content will be a boon for the underprivileged learners of Delhi.

Q. 5. What is the capex and opex required to create and operate public WiFi?
Answer: To arrive at these figures a detailed analysis of the existing infrastructure is required.
The Area of Delhi is - 1,484 km². Therefore, depending on the range of the WiFi routers/repeaters adequate numbers need to be installed. The prices of WiFi routers have been falling continually. Bulk purchasing for the project can be done at steep discounts.

Q. 6. What could be a model that makes public WiFi viable, sustainable and scalable in terms of usage, tech and financials?

Usage & Technological viability: The bandwidth allocation for different zones should be dynamically adjustable (automatically) so as to ensure a guaranteed predetermined bandwidth for each user logged into the WiFi network. A combination of technologies can be deployed to leverage existing wired infrastructure (wherever available) and Cellular infrastructure in places where wired infrastructure does not exist. Wireless Mesh Networks may be best suited for a densely populated city like Delhi. 

The following are some studies on Wireless Mesh Network:

2) "How to: Setup a Low-Cost Wi-Fi Mesh Hot Zone" by Jim Geier. Link:
3) "City Deploys Municipal Wireless Network". Link:

4) “The Nominal Capacity of Wireless Mesh Networks”. Link: -

Financial viability: Wherever, applicable, a small processing fee can be charged for Government services offered through the government portal accessible through the public WiFi network. Corporate advertisements on the network can be explored. Also, the portal can act as a marketplace/platform for buyers and sellers with small fee for each transaction.
Citizens above a certain age may be allowed to register into the network to avail the allotted free bandwidth. Users may be allowed to either use the free bandwidth allocated to them or sell it to others who may be in need of more bandwidth over & above what is allocated to them. Allowing resale of bandwidth would enable economic activity on the platform. Thus add value to the GDP and also enable revenue collection by provisioning tax on the resale of allocated bandwidth. The ability to encash their bandwidth on the platform will provide some relief for people in need of money. Further, the Company/Entity entrusted with running & maintaining the network can itself sell bandwidth to users over and above the free bandwidth allocated to them.

Q. 7. Can public WiFi network be made financially self-sustainable if viewed from the welfare service perspective alone?
Answer: It may be able to sustain itself financially if the suggestions listed in 6 above are implemented.

Q. 8. Should there be multiple operators or an exclusive operator in a well-defined zone of the city?
Answer: Multiple operators may be used depending on the areas covered by the operators in terms of their reach via their wired Optical Fibre Network as well as 3G / 4G Network.

Q. 9. What could be the operating architecture that brings all the stakeholders together?
Answer: A new company needs to be floated akin to the DMRC (preferably in the PPP model) for developing, operating and maintaining the Public WiFi network. This company would be tasked with coordination of all activities with all stakeholders pertaining to the WiFi network and effective delivery of services. For this purpose, a common gateway (website) needs to be maintained through which the users would connect to the network. The web portal should provide for user registration & authentication.

Q. 10. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a private enterprise model vis a vis a PSU model?
Advantages of Private enterprise vis a vis PSU
  1. Responsiveness towards customers/clients: Private enterprises are generally more responsive towards grievances of customers with respect to the delivery of service. Especially, in maintaining high reliability and continuity of services.
  2. Faster decision making: Private enterprises are more nimble in taking decisions as they are not hobbled by the bureaucratic tape of the government sector.
  3. Innovation: Private enterprises are more receptive to innovation and adoption of new technologies as opposed to the generally monolithic Public Sector Units.

Disadvantages of Private enterprise vis a vis PSU
  1. Profit being the primary motive, private companies may eventually focus more on making money (either directly through tariffs or, indirectly through targeted advertising at the cost of customer experience).

To know more about differences between Private & Public Sector, see “The difference between the public and private sectors” By Per Koch. Link:

By Manoj Tirkey,
Erstwhile Research Scholar at JNU, presently an academic at IGNOU