This is probably India’s first major project to be inaugurated with a tweet! Days ahead of crucial elections in Mumbai, CM Devendra Fadnavis caught political opponents by surprise and delighted citizens by launching 500 wifi hotspots across Mumbai.
Free wifi has been an issue of public debate in the city ever since MNS and Shiv Sena launched hotspots, which failed to perform. So The Quint decided to check if Mumbai wifi, the service launched by the state government, was actually functional.
Locating the Nearest Hotspot
Using the Service
Enable wifi on your phone and choose the ‘Mumbai wifi’ option. Then you will automatically be directed to your browser for verification. The first thing you see is the photograph of CM Fadnavis, who is the face of BJP’s campaign in the upcoming city polls.
Once you enter your mobile number, you’ll get an OTP, which will allow you to begin using the wifi service.
The Quint’s Experience With Mumbai Wifi
We visited two locations in Bandra east and Bandra west and found that the wifi was working smoothly. There are, however, a few glitches at the verification stage. Our first verification failed, but when we managed to connect in our second attempt, we were taken by surprise! We actually got 19.05 mbps of download speed, which is close to the promised speed of 20 mbps and is terrific for a free service.
But not everyone was as lucky. Many have complained that they faced multiple problems during verification. The IT department of the government of Maharashtra says it has deployed 50 teams on the ground to address these complaints.
Is The Service Completely Free?
It will be free till 31 January. After that, users will be charged for usage of over 100 MB or longer than 30 minutes. Rates are likely to be around Rs 30 per 100 MB.
The government is planning to activate 1200 Wifi hotspots by 1 May 2017. As of now, the total cost for the entire project is Rs 194 crore. This cost is borne by the MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority), a body of the state government.
Is It Safe?
Although experts are worried about hacking, officials insist they have used the best technology to make the service safe for users. The government has also tried to block popular porn sites, but it’s almost impossible to block them all. Experts worldwide advise users to avoid making financial transactions on public wifi.
Why Was Is It Done So Fast?
Free wifi is an important political issue in Mumbai. Last year, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had launched a free wifi service at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai. Then the Shiv Sena launched free wifi hotspots in 8 places in south Mumbai. But user feedback for these services was poor.
Now the BJP-led state government has overtaken the two local players by launching the county’s first and biggest public internet service. This has been done in haste, as elections for the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal corporation) are likely to be announced this week. The BJP is trying to woo youngsters in the metro city, where the smartphone penetration is huge.
How Did It Happen So Fast?
The Chief Minister had announced free wifi in Mumbai 5 months ago in the Assembly. But when he made the announcement, work on the project had already begun. Optic fibre cables were already being laid, along with cables for the CCTV project. This saved a lot of time and effort.
Who is Providing Service?
Larsen and Toubro, which implemented the CCTV surveillance project has been given the wifi project as well. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), the government-owned telecom service provider, is providing the bandwidth.