India rolls out free Wi-Fi to 1,050 villages across country
The Indian Government is hoping to succeed where Google and Facebook have so-far made slow progress by rolling out free Wi-Fi to 1,050 villages across the country.
Over the next six months, each village will be given its own hotspot mounted on a special tower as part of The Digital Village project, which is expected to cost $62m.
Locals will be able to connect via mobile phones, and the project will eventually be rolled out to other parts of the country.
There are almost half a billion internet users in India, which makes up roughly 13.5 per cent of the world’s total. But this represents only 34.8 per cent of the country, compared to the UK, where 92 per cent are online.
The world’s biggest tech firms have been looking to take advantage of the country’s unconnected population, of which there are more than 900m.
Google recently installed its own free Wi-Fi at more than 100 train stations and an offline-first YouTube app, and Facebook is currently investigating ways to “get the next billion online”.
Aruna Sundararajan, a representative from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology told CNN Money, the aim of the project is to "provide basic development services to rural areas using digital technology".
Earlier this year, Mumbai installed the first 500 Wi-Fi hotspots in a plan to create more than 1,200 across the city.
The next 700 hotspots are scheduled to have been installed by May, turning the western-Indian area into a “Wi-Fi city”.
The government began testing the service on January 2nd, and in a week more than 23,000 users access the free Wi-Fi, with users downloading more than 2TB of data in barely a week.
For free internet, the government is using the state-run MTNL network, which lasts for either 1GB of data (offered at 20Mbps) or 30 minutes, whichever is hit first.