Interview: Avinash Gabriel, COO of Wi-Fi Business, Tata Teleservices speaks about various aspects of public Wi-Fi services in India

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Avinash Gabriel, COO, Wi-Fi Business, Tata Teleservices Limited

India is slowly catching up with the need for staying connected always. Recognising this need for Internet-on-the-go, Tata Docomo is focusing and working towards providing Wi-Fi services in public places. It aims to be a leader in promoting the concept of ‘Smart Lifestyles’ in the country. We spoke to Avinash Gabriel, COO-Wi-Fi Business at Tata Teleservices to get an understanding about various aspects of public Wi-Fi services. Find the conversation below:

Early last month Tata Docomo launched free Wi-Fi in partnership with Delhi Municipal council? How is the implementation so far?

Response- The provision of public Wi-Fi access at Connaught Place has been a fulfilling experience for us at Tata Docomo. The partnership with NDMC has been truly supportive – finding solutions to unique connectivity challenges associated with the large spread of the CP area. From the impromptu live streaming of video at the launch ceremony by Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament, to the heartening response we are receiving from early adopters; the experience of establishing public Wi-Fi services at CP has been encouraging.

Do you see a rise in the demand of public Wi-Fi services? What is driving this demand?

Response- According to a report by market research company Informa Telecoms and Media, public Wi-Fi hotspot numbers are set to grow from 1.3 to 5.8 million globally in the next four years.

The recent explosion of data usage coupled with affordable mobile devices leading to the desire of constant connectivity is the main drivers of public Wi-Fi services. With over 2.4 billion Internet users across the world, of which nearly 1.5 billion access the Internet through mobile devices either as a primary or a supplementary device; studies have indicated that globally 70 percent of smartphone traffic rides on Wi-Fi.

Due to this millennial attitude of being constantly connected, the generation supersedes all expectations when it comes to sharing and using the internet. The world’s ‘exhibitionist’ class; everything is shared, endorsement and validation is actively sought for – virtually – every activity for the millennial generation.

Driven by these changing trends of a whole new customer experience enabled by ubiquitous mobility and constant connectivity, the demand for public Wi-Fi services is showing a steady rise.

What kind of potential do you see for public Wi-Fi services in India?

Response- While globally public Wi-Fi services have been at a steady rise, it is still at a nascent stage in India. However, the signs of the growing penetration of public Wi-Fi services across the country have been promising. Of the 160+ million Internet users in India, 86 million access Internet using their mobile devices.2 Mobility is driving the desire for internet-on-the-go, a demand that is fulfilled largely by public Wi-Fi services. Moreover, with Wi-Fi airwaves being freely available, public Wi-Fi is an alternate proposition for connecting to the internet. The millennials happen to be the largest generation alive today, 1.8 billion globally (out of 7 billion world population) and will comprise of 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 ; making this generation an important point of focus for all business operations in the world while also making concepts like sharing, which are part of their DNA, unavoidable. Presently, 71% of smartphone users in India use Wi-Fi services to access data and these numbers will only grow in the coming years. Recognizing these changing trends, we at Tata Docomo constantly endeavor to provide services to fulfill the changing requirements of customers.

How secure it is to use public Wi-Fi?

Response- As a reliable provider of public Wi-Fi services, one of the main concerns is data security. While any customer can access the Internet via Tata Docomo’s public Wi-Fi hotspots, the company has to ensure that this access to the Internet is in a safe and secure manner without any misuse of the services.

This is where the need for customers to provide their contact details while signing up to access Tata Docomo’s public Wi-Fi services comes into play. One has to provide details such as name and contact number to complete the registration process post which one can avail of the services. This allows for a high level of security to be provided while customers use public Wi-Fi services.

When users signup for free Wi-Fi, data like their phone number and email id is collected. How is this data used?

Response- When users first latch-on to the Tata Docomo public Wi-Fi network, they have to provide their details such as name and contact number to complete the registration process. Post successful registration, customers will receive a one-time password (OTP) that will allow them to latch-on to Tata Docomo’s public Wi-Fi services to access data.

When a repeat customer latches-on to the service at a later date, one will not have to register again but simply receive a new OTP and be able to use the public Wi-Fi services seamlessly.

How dependable is public Wi-Fi? What kind of speed one can expect during peak hours?

Response- Tata Docomo offers public Wi-Fi speeds starting from 512kbps up to 10 Mbps.

From establishing strong signal strength to maintaining constant high speeds, it is the continuous endeavour of Tata Docomo to provide customers’ with a quality data experience that not only satisfies their data connectivity needs but also delights them even during peak hours.

How do you monetise the Public Wi-Fi services and what are the revenue models?

Response- Public Wi-Fi hotspots are slowly emerging as one of the most preferred services for data access for on-the-move customers on their mobile devices.
Apart from the traditional revenue generation model of paid usage beyond the first 20 minutes, Tata Docomo is also exploring alternative revenue streams by offering value added services to its customers.

Do you see a shift in strategy, earlier the focus was on providing Wi-Fi at events and now it has moved to providing Wi-Fi at public places?

Response- Events and Wi-Fi access at public spaces are complimentary. They are both being fuelled by the millennial generation’s growing need for hyper connectivity. Wi-Fi is the “new oxygen” for millennials and we will continue to deliver to satisfy this need of theirs.

Our installation of public Wi-Fi services at events such as the Auto Expo Motor Show in February 2014 and the Chinnaswamy Stadium for the Royal Challenger’s Bangalore in May this year are complemented by our Wi-Fi implementation at some India’s most emblematic including Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, Indira Gandhi International Airport and Chinnaswamy Stadium.

How is the competition in this field? What innovations do you bring in to outdo competition?

Response- Supported by the company’s wholly-owned national fiber backbone, Tata Docomo is one of India’s leading Wi-Fi service provider. Tata DoCoMo’s Wi-Fi provisioning has also helped to connect some of India’s most emblematic public spaces, including Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, Indira Gandhi International Airport and Chinnaswamy Stadium.

In addition to infrastructure, Tata Docomo delivers support services, security and a range of revenue models and value-added services to support these Wi-Fi zones in anticipation of the exponential growth of Internet usage on the back of year-on-year doubling of smartphone devices in India.

If you look at different verticals including hotels, retail chains, airports etc., are the implementations similar or do they throw different challenges?

Response- While the basic requirements in establishing public Wi-Fi services are similar across different verticals, the differences in the details arise due to varying factors such as location, layout, regulations, footfall, peak load and expected user internet behaviour. Every location is unique.

In terms of future plans, what are the other verticals that you are planning to expand public Wi-Fi services into?

Response- Currently, Tata Docomo has Wi-Fi hotspots at footfall-heavy areas such as airports, retail chains and malls across India. We have aggressive hotspot acquisition plan across the country in coming years given the increase in Wi-Fi enabled devices and data usage.


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Telecom Analyst

Passionately following the Indian #Telecom Industry for over a decade from Business, Consumer and a Technical perspective. My primary focus area is Consumer & Digital Experience.

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