Blog Past: City Wi-Fi Networks

This idea from 2006 to unwire India will probably get done in a different way (3G, WiMax): “One of the challenges facing India for last mile connectivity to homes and offices is the stranglehold that the government owned telcos (BSNL and MTNL) have. While both are now pushing DSL to the home, the pace of deployment is not as rapid as India needs. In this context, what is interesting are the plans by many cities in the US to deploy wireless networks to provide a blanket of connectivity. This has two implications for India: first, we should be looking at similar technologies and plans; and second, the US deployment (along with usage in other international cities) will drive the cost of equipment lower making it much more affordable. Given India’s lack of legacy network infrastructure, city Wi-Fi networks make a lot of sense.”

In emerging markets like India, there are five elements that need to come together to provide an end-to-end solution for computing and connectivity.

First, build a city-wide wireless mesh network. This will provide the connectivity fabric and provide an alternative to getting DSL or cable (or waiting for WiMax). The key price point for this connectivity needs to be around Rs 200-250 ($4.50-$5.50) per month.

Second, use a variety of access devices to connect to the network. These could be PCs or network computers. (One of the companies I have helped co-found, Novatium, has just such a solution – the Nova NetPC.) We will also see mobile devices like the Nokia 770 and phones with Wi-Fi built in connecting to the mesh network.

Third, provide a backend computing and storage grid. This helps centralise computing and provides for seamless mobility for users. It also makes computing much more affordable and manageable.

Fourth, provide applications and content from a centralised grid to users over the wireless mesh networks.

Finally, use advertising to reduce the price that users have to pay for the service.

The key is to be able to offer the base service for no more than $10 (Rs 450) a month for the entire solution (device, connectivity and services), with additional revenue possible through value-added services.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.

3 thoughts on “Blog Past: City Wi-Fi Networks”

  1. There’s a significant revenue to be derived in machine to machine communications that is too often overlooked even as it creeps into the forefront.

    Controls and sensors will penetrate vertically and quickly after this sector proves its merchantability. I noticed that GM’s OnStar recently filed its 500th patent. In-home medical uploading is appearing in the gadget news. Irrigation switches tied to twittering crops. Perhaps finally, alarms may no longer require costly wire-bound installation.

    Machine accounts may outnumber humans 10 to 1 in the not distant future.


  2. Here’s an encouraging and thorough follow-up on the upcoming machine-machine web written by Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle at the Web2.0 Summit.

    Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On

    Say “sensor-based applications,” and many people might imagine a world of applications driven by RFID tags or ZigBee modules. This future is conveniently far off, with test deployments and a few exciting early stage applications. But what many people fail to notice is how far along the sensor revolution already is. It’s the hidden face of the mobile market, and its most explosive opportunity.


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