Vodafone Idea (Vi) is reportedly mulling exiting the Wi-Fi joint venture (JV) with Bharti Airtel formed back in 2014. Ravinder Takkar, CEO of Vodafone Idea, told BusinessLine the company might potentially exit the JV with Airtel as neither of the companies is investing much time into it.
When the JV was formed, India was running on mobile networks powered by 3G technology. The telco had anticipated the data surge in the following years and thus had created a Wi-Fi JV to offload some data traffic into it.
But once 4G swarmed India with Jio’s arrival, mobile data became abnormally affordable for most in the country, and thus the Wi-Fi JV didn’t get much interest from the consumers.
PM-WANI Program Still an Ambitious One from the Government
The PM-WANI program, launched in December 2020, aims to set up public Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation. According to the central registry, over 63,841 Wi-Fi hotspots have already been deployed PAN-India. The goal of the government is to set up 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots by 2022, and the PM-WANI program has been set up to drive that ambition.
The role of public Wi-Fi hotspots is still crucial for the development of India. There are still many regions of the country where the telcos have not set up their mobile networks because of the profitability factor. In such areas, public Wi-Fi hotspots can do a lot of good in the short-to-medium term.
Further, with public Wi-Fi hotspots, congested 4G networks in India get some sort of relief. Ravinder Takkar’s statements suggest that Vi is not really enthusiastic about the Wi-Fi JV with Airtel anymore and, in the following days, can potentially exit. It makes sense that neither Airtel nor Vi is paying a lot of attention to the JV as the role of 4G networks/mobile networks has grown significantly. For now, the PM-WANI scheme is looking to make India a country with public Wi-Fi hotspots in every nook and corner.