How ‘Municipal Wi-Fi’ Can Become Lifeline for Smart Cities in India

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By Zia Askari

As bigger cities of India are continuously feeling the strain coming from a number of infrastructure directions including lack of basic level Internet connectivity issues – next generation ready technologies such as ‘Municipal Wi-Fi’ can come in handy in order to enable smart city foundations and drive unique connectivity experiences to its citizen.

Wi-Fi driven connected Smart Cities can provide an ideal platform, on which unique and innovative business level service experiences can be served to multiple set of customers to address the most critical issues of connectivity on-the-go by deploying city-wide Wi-Fi Hotspots.

Segments such as government and administration, tourism, recreation, energy, environment, transportation, IT & Communication, education, healthcare and social services can be positively impacted with the use of Municipal Wi-Fi.

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According to Akshat Joshi, VP – Wi-Fi Product Management, Elitecore Technologies Pvt. Ltd, when it comes to deploying Municipal Wi-Fi, today’s operators look for a simplistic solution that can have all the features and yet be managed easily.

“This is where Elitecore SMP is helping operators gain more from their investments in Wi-Fi. With Elitecore SMP, an operator has a holistic view of the complete Wi-Fi ecosystem. It is an intelligent solution that is capable of catering to all the requirements of the Operator and Retailer Wi-Fi ecosystem – on a single platform including Advertisement Server for AD campaign management and to display Ads, partner revenue settlement, mobile app for various OS and captive portal to display Ads, a monetization server for location identification, location specific analytics and revenue management,” he explains.

Talking about the possibilities of telcos, CSPs and cable operators pushing Municipal Wi-Fi, Jan Sjönell, Managing Director, Asia/Middle East, Aptilo Networks says that cable operators could potentially roll out the same initiatives that India’s BSNL and MTNL have done.

“This would further fuel the growth of Wi-Fi. Cable operators could also create huge Wi-Fi networks virtually overnight by lighting up an additional SSID for public use in their subscribers’ routers. With the right service management system it is possible to make sure that the public SSID is only utilizing excess capacity,” he explains.

 

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The Aptilo Offering

The Aptilo Service Management Platform, providing Wi-Fi service management in 100+ carrier Wi-Fi deployments in more than 70 countries, is the world’s leading system to handle Wi-Fi services. It has all the AAA, portal and policy features needed for a Hotspot 2.0 service including SIM authentication and roaming support.

Akshat Joshi from Elitecore says that Municipal Wi-Fi, can be made a reality if initiative taken jointly by Cable, telecom & internet service providers with full fledged support from government. “The combined efforts can help in easy layout of network, internet feasibility and access from CSP as well as can integrate with cable providers for making cable connection Wi-Fi enabled and managing the home connection cable by making it Publicly Accessible SSID for Wi-Fi with the same infrastructure and zero additional cost enabling outdoor coverage in the areas covered by the AP. These can help government in their venture of making every city connected and smart, CSP can earn by partnering with advertisers and retailers as well as cable operators can get more footage and market coverage. This can be good monetization strategy for all the entities. He explains.

The Elitecore Offering

Along with the Smart Solution across varied segments, Elitecore enables city municipalities to launch city-wide Wi-Fi offerings while providing anytime anywhere connectivity and access to smart services for citizen engagement and improved quality of life.

Elitecore Wi-Fi Solution for Connected Smart Cities serves as the establishment for delivering next generation innovative services empowering government, businesses and citizens thus enabling a successful strategy to shape up the cities smarter.

The transformation to Smart Cities will achieve its edge through an ecosystem that will bring together solution providers like Elitecore, IT enabler, new partners and integrators to unlock the tremendous value that emerges by addressing the complex requirements of the smart city market.

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Challenges Around Municipal Wi-Fi

The government of India has already committed more than Rs 7000 crore for development of 100 smart cities in the country, however the task is not that simple and there could be many complexities involved while rolling out technologies.

As explained by Jan Sjönell from Aptilo Networks, there is a risk that there will be many small WISPs covering only a local area with their Wi-Fi service. “I think that they all need to come together in order to reach the full potential. This will most likely require initiatives from a few major players and maybe also further initiatives from the government. Again, the operators need to do roaming agreements with one another. Hotspot 2.0 and certainly the Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) roaming initiatives from the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), of which Aptilo Networks is a member, will facilitate this much-needed next phase.” He explains.

“Another challenge is always site acquisition. For cellular networks it has always been a matter of renting space for the base stations. That model will not work for Wi-Fi, it is all about earning the right to deploy your access points by offering attractive and relevant services to the venue owners.” He adds on.

Akshat Joshi from Elitecore says that cities wanting to offer their residents high-speed Internet access would choose Wi-Fi technology based on the IEEE 802.11 standard. “Since Wi-Fi operates in an unlicensed band of spectrum, nobody has to dish out millions of dollars to buy access to air waves. And because Wi-Fi is so pervasive–just about every laptop sold today comes equipped with the technology–equipment used to deliver these networks is relatively cheap. What’s more putting radios on utility poles and lamp posts is much less expensive than digging up streets to lay fiber optic cable. Above all these the main challenge lies in establishing the municipal Wi-Fi network in terms of infrastructure and services and technological acceptance amongst common people, seamless connectivity, security, open frequency band, legal constraints and issues. All these challenges can be resolved by creating awareness among people and generating acceptance of Wi-Fi as a medium of connectivity,” he explains.

Conclusion

As India moves ahead on a path to build smart city infrastructure, Municipal Wi-Fi can create a seamless connectivity fabric upon which a number of bandwidth intensive applications can be delivered and that too with a unique customer experience in mind. Wi-Fi is a matured technology and can also help different stakeholders from the CSPs, ISPs and Cable communities come together to deliver innovative connectivity solutions for the customers.

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