Always connected thanks to WiFi hotspots (image courtesy: Ozone Networks)
India unwired! Free public Internet could be a nationwide digital game changer

Bangalore, April 27 2015: The   aggro about  net neutrality,  on all those 9 pm TV shout-a-thons, has obscured the real challenge for  Indians today:  How to get primary access to the Internet . If you can't afford basic connectivity,  what  does it matter  which websites we can view or not view? Which is why  the government's plans to blanket the country with free Internet hotspots is  -- or should be  -- the big story today.
The only viable technology to  offer  Net access over  large public  areas,  is WiFi -- and it has  one big advantage: it can be rolled out using  the unlicensed and  'free' areas of the  wireless spectrum. 
Public WiFi is not new : It was first rolled out  7 years ago  by the Pune Municipal Corporation,    with Microsense  who created a free 512 KBPS hotspot  at the Sambhaji Park. The experiment fizzled -- neither governments nor corporates   showed much interest in   making such spots viable  -- till now.
The government  has  pledged connect India's 250,000 village clusters, using  WiFi for  the 'last mile'.
Bengaluru laid claim last year  to be  "India's first  free WiFi Zone"  in the central business district   and a  few bus stations.
Kolkata followed suit   and 'illumined' Park Street, with four more areas due to become hotspots this year. Chennai Central became the first railway station to get Wi-Fi connectivity in September last,  followed by Bengaluru.  
The Rapid Metro in Gurgaon  has Wifi in all stations, as had the Mumbai Metro, albeit for a  brief spell.
Ahmedabad, Agra, Mumbai CST,  Howrah and Secunderabad  stations are  next in queue: the railways has entrusted the task to Sistema Shyam  and hopes that 400 stations will ultimately  have hotspots .
'MyDelhi-WiFi Delhi'  was an election mantra of the AAP. OnApril2, the Delhi government  conducted a day long dialogue with all stateholders, including BSNL, private providers and experts to set up 600 hotspots in the national capital.
The Gachibowli-HitecCity  IT corridor in Hyderabad, boasts a few free Internet hotspots at  Kondapur, Hightech City, Madhapur where users have free data up to 750 MB.  
BSNL is to set up WiFi  spots in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Chennai's Marina beach , Mahabalipuram, Sims Park   in Coonoor and Thanjavur's Big Temple  are expected to go WiFi by May. In the Kochi area BSNL is partnering QuadGen  Wireless Solutions  to start WiFi services at 10  locations  including Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Marine Drive, High Court, Subhash Park,  Vyttila Mobility Hub, Jos Junction, Edappally Junction & Kaloor.
Varanasi got free WiFi  this year-- in keeping with an electoral  promise made by its parliamentary representative -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However the rollout is having to contend with the holy city's monkeys who keep  eating away the riverside fibre optic cables.
Taj Mahal and Khajuraho are among  25 tourist spots  slated to go WiFi by June this year.
India's WiFi drive has the benefit of  being led by some of the  best brains in the business. QuadGen is led by  C.S. Rao, former  head of the WiMax Forum. 
The largest private player in WiFi is Ozone Networks,  founded and led by UK-born  Sanjeev Bobby Sarin, a veteran from British Telecom.  The company has created  some 7000 WiFi zones in India; about 1500 are public hotspots, the rest are  for enterprises like  Macdonalds,  Haldiram  and Subway who see value in providing  free WiFi in their outlets.
Public Internet in India is still a  work in progress. Free usually means 15 - 30 minutes max,  after which there is a charge. The quality is patchy and connectivity both slow and  intermittent. But it's a start.
For  lakhs of lay Indians,  the mobile phone is their  chosen tool of empowerment --- and  while they can afford the asking price of a call or an SMS,  free public Internet hotspots may yet emerge as their chosen  route to access the Internet.   Anand Parthasarathy

Free Public Wifi Access Zones & Hotspots In India... 2 resources