Hyderabad: Telangana’s capital Hyderabad joined the growing league of Indian cities offering citizens access to high-speed public WiFi, when the state government introduced the service on Thursday evening.

The service will initially be available in the stretch surrounding Hussainsagar Lake in the heart of the city. The network, free for the initial 30 minutes after logging in, will be available within a 10-km radius of the lake, a popular tourist spot.

State-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is collaborating with US-based QuadGen Wireless Solutions Inc. to provide the public WiFi internet service. BSNL provides optic fibre connectivity to WiFi hotspots of QuadGen, which beams the signals. Both companies operate on a revenue-sharing model.

About 1,800-2,500 users will be able to access the service at a time, K.T. Rama Rao, Telangana’s information technology minister, said. Browsing speeds would vary from 2 Mbps to 10 Mbps.

“This is mere tip of the iceberg," said Rama Rao. The government plans to roll out public WiFi across Hyderabad by December 2015. “We want to make Hyderabad the first 100% WiFi-enabled city in the country," Rama Rao, also chief minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao’s son, said.

Hyderabad is among the 2,500 cities identified by the union government to roll out WiFi services in public places as part of the Digital India initiative. Bengaluru, Delhi, Mysuru, Varanasi, and Kolkata offer public WiFi at a few spots, but none of the cities has WiFi network available across the city.

Globally, cities such as Barcelona, San Francisco, and London offer city-wide WiFi services.

“We want to empower people of India. We want to bridge the divide between digital haves and digital have-nots," union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a video conference call. Tourist spots such as Taj Mahal, Sarnath and Hampi will “soon" be equipped with public WiFi, Prasad said.

The Telangana government is trying to reinvent Hyderabad as a ‘global smart city’ after its brand image took a beating following a prolonged agitation for statehood. Since Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in June last year as India’s 29th state, the government has been making attempts to revive the city’s brand image as an information technology hub.

The public WiFi initiative is one step in that direction, Jayesh Ranjan, Telangana’s IT secretary, said. “Hyderabad will shortly become 100% WiFi city in coming months in every nook and corner," said Ranjan.

BSNL has been mandated to roll out city-wide WiFi across Hyderabad, Rama Rao said.

BSNL’s optical fibre cable network spanning 4,000 km across twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad will be used to provide public WiFi at 2,000 locations in first phase over the next 180 days, the government said.

The Telangana government had piloted another public WiFi model in partnership with Bharti Airtel Ltd in October at Hi-Tec City, the information technology hub of Hyderabad.

But Rama Rao said government-run BSNL is best suited to rolling out the service in Hyderabad. “The company with biggest network is BSNL... Being a government company, it makes our job easier," Rama Rao added.

Telangana’s government is also drawing up plans to roll out optical fibre connection to 10 million households in the state. It expects a 4G network rollout across the state to be completed by June 2015. “These (initiatives) should make the state of Telangana the complete digital state in the country," Ranjan added.

Neighbour Andhra Pradesh is also working on a plan to connect all households with high-speed fibre optic network.

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