Late last year, the Union Cabinet approved the Prime Minister’s Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI) with an aim to expand broadband internet proliferation in India. What is interesting to note is that, barely a year into this initiative, there are early signs to show its positive impact.
Within nine months of the launch, close to 50,000 PM-WANI hotspots have already been deployed, with around two million hotspots to be set up soon. The initiative is expected to provide affordable access to unlimited high-speed internet to the next 500 million users in India. According to think-tank Broadband India Forum (BIF), PM-WANI will result in the creation of 20-30 million job opportunities in small and medium-sized firms.
Speaking on creating a connected Bharat, Satyam Darmora, founder of i2e1, India’s first PM-WANI compliant Wi-Fi company, says, “India is amongst the largest countries in the world, what we need to realise is that we are a very diverse country and even our metro cities have slum areas. Therefore, we need to make efforts to connect every Indian citizen to the internet. This does come with its own challenges, considering there is a new culture to experience every 30 km.”
i2e1 has successfully deployed 500+ hotspots in the Kusumpur Pahadi area of Delhi to bring the residents closer to their dream of accessing uninterrupted internet. “Today, most of our customers from Kusumpur Pahadi area are children who purchase Rs 5 internet coupons with 24-hour Wi-Fi access; these children use internet to access online education,” says Darmora. “We have seen an uptake in the number of PDOAs (Public Data Office Aggregator) in the area, with kirana shops and other small business owners actively reaching out to us to secure routers which will help the residents to avail internet under this framework.
This is just the beginning, and we plan to continue this dream of ensuring that every citizen is accounted for and has easy access to affordable internet to fulfill their dreams.”
The PDOAs in turn have mentioned multiple repeat customers who buy internet coupons from them worth Rs 5, Rs 10 or Rs 50 with a validity of up to 24 hours, two days and 20 days respectively, helping them increase their earnings by approximately 20%.
Darmora highlights a new scheme introduced by Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), the principal financial institution responsible for the promotion, financing and development of the MSME sector in India.
He says, “It gives hope to the kiranawalas and small shops to further expand their businesses by registering themselves as PDOAs. SIDBI is launching a scheme for MSMEs who are PDOAs under the PM-WANI scheme, where they are willing to fund the initial set-up cost /capital expenditure, purchase of equipment, working capital expenditure & marketing. Further, loans will be covered under Credit Guarantee cover offered by CGTMSE (Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro & Small Enterprises).”
Darmora says that he is confident that PM-WANI will be a huge success and will aid economic progress of the country. He believes that it is a revolutionary architectural and policy change in the internet delivery that the government has adopted.
“This scheme opens up a new shared economy that can fundamentally change how internet delivery happens today. It will also empower internet companies and change the telecom sector forever,” he says, adding, “All in all, this is just a small insight to prove that the PM-WANI scheme is already in the works. There are much bigger things awaiting and this is just the beginning.”