In a bid to make way for growing mobile broadband usage in the country, popular mobile service providers like Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular are reportedly looking at moving part of their data services to Wi-Fi hotspots, according to a report by The Economic Times. By doing so, telecom companies aim to free up “scarce 2G and 3G airwaves for mobile telephony”. The report adds that Bharti Airtel have already gone ahead and set up 1,000 hotspots in three cities across the nation with high levels of data consumption, “apportioning a greater proportion of its licensed spectrum for handling voice traffic”, added the report. Bharti Airtel's President for consumer business, K Srinivas, was quoted by the report as saying, “Spectrum is limited, and all over the world carriers have offloaded data on to Wi-Fi, integrating it with existing networks while the back haul can be any medium – copper, fibre or LTE. It's pretty much part of the plan for us as well.”

Shifting gaze to Wi-Fi (Image credit: Getty Images)

Shifting gaze to Wi-Fi (Image credit: Getty Images)

Aircel too, according to this report, is gearing up for the move, and will be conducting trials of improved wi-fi hotspot technology before the end of the year so that the hotspots can be ready for commercial use. Using this technology, it will be possible for a user to automatically connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot instead of having to type in a pass code, as is usually done presently. The report further added: “Aircel has been propagating use of Wi-Fi technology as it feels this will lighten the load on its licensed spectrum. Also, since Wi-Fi services are usually accessed indoors, deploying hotspots can improve indoor data coverage.”

Interestingly, the report adds that some mobile phone companies are even toying with the idea of using Wi-Fi to better their existing mobile networks and deploy them in busy areas like shopping centers and stadiums.

The report quoted Cisco's Chief Technology Officer, Alex Zinin, as saying, “Service providers are looking at Wi-Fi as an alternative radio technology that will be deployed in parallel with their existing macro base-station network. This will make more spectrum available for data usage.” He said that since spectrum was scarce in India, the company put forth the option to use Wi-Fi, which essentially is unlicensed spectrum. “We're talking to several service providers about that (deployments),” he added.

KPMG India partner, Jaideep Ghosh, was also quoted as saying, “Wi-Fi offloading is definitely a trend that is catching up. Wi-Fi customers will be in public areas, at home, or in enterprises, and considering that there are existing issues on pricing of spectrum and low uptake of data, wireless makes good sense. There's definitely money to be made there.”

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