PM-WANI launched at 100 railway stations in one go
- The “Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI)” scheme has been recently launched by RailTel.
- Through this scheme access to RailTel’s free and fast public WiFi services will be provided in 100 Indian Railways stations across the country having 2,384 WiFi hotspots.
- The 100 railway stations are spread across 22 states of the nation and include:
- 71 Category A1 railway stations
- 29 railway stations that are of other categories.
How can a user access the WiFi network?
- An individual can access the WiFi network via an android based mobile app named ‘Wi-DOT’which is available on the Google Play Store.
- This mobile app has been developed in association with the C-DOT.
- This method will be an addition to the already existing method that allows WiFi access at these stations by selecting RailWire Service Set Identifier.
- The PM-WANI will be facilitating the ease of use via a Know Your Customer (KYC) so as to avoid One Time Password (OTP) based authentication every time an individual tries to access the networks.
- The government has plans of extending this PM-WANI-based WiFI access to all the 6102 railway stations having a Wi-Fi facility in a phased manner by June 2022’s end.
About PM WANI
- It is the Department of Telecom’s program that helps facilitate the use and proliferates broadband usage across the country.
- The framework of the PM-WANI has been developed and designed by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT).
- Through the PM-WANI last-mile internet access is being provided across the country.
- New Wave of Internet Users: PM WANI will be able to connect a new wave of users not just to commercial and entertainment options, but also to education, telehealth and agriculture extension, and bring greater accountability to the government by boosting transparency and interactivity.
- Enabler for Digital India: The scheme would enable small shopkeepers to provide Wi-Fi service. This will boost incomes as well as ensure youth gets seamless internet connectivity.
- It can also strengthen the Digital India mission.
- Cutting The Red Tape: Through PM WANI, the government is hoping that by cutting through layers of bureaucracy and eliminating licences and fees, it can make it easy even for a tea shop owner to register online as a service provider, opening up new income avenues.
- Domino Effect on Economy: According to the TRAI report, public Wi-Fi system on the WANI architecture can lead to a 10% rise in net penetration which in turn can lead to a 1.4% increase in GDP.
- Bridging the Digital Divide: PM WANI can result into a rapid scale-up of the Internet in rural India, which will be transformative, given the low level of penetration — 27.57 subscribers per 100 population in 2019.
- Wi-fi linked to broadband fibre service can be the fastest route to bridging the existing gap.
- Low-Cost Alternative: Upcoming mobile technologies such as 5G may provide good quality data, but they involve high investment in the new spectrum, connectivity equipment and regular subscriber fees.
- The WANI system offers a way forward to connect low revenue consumers.
- Security Risks: A public WiFI network has several security issues. That’s because several people access the network at the same time on the same spot.
- Thus public Wi-Fi is at a high risk of sending out confidential data (like passwords, pins etc.) over the network.
- Low Speed: As public WiFI network is usually accessed by several people at the same time, it results in a considerable loss of bandwidth resulting in a slow network speed
- It is due to this fact, Google and Facebook’s attempts to provide public Wi-fi got shut down earlier this year.
- Cheap Mobile Data: As per TRAI in 2019, India now has among the cheapest mobile data per GB in the world, with mobile data prices having reduced by 95% in the last five years.
- As 4G has become cheap and widely accessible, is there still a need to drive Wi-Fi in this manner, rather than the “leapfrogging” of technology that people have frequently talked about in the context of India
- Strong Cyber-Security Architecture: What the citizen expects is robust service, protection of data integrity, transparency on commercial use of data, and security against cyberattacks.
- PM WANI should ensure the public data is protected and safe. In this context, the enactment of the public data protection bill, 2019, is the need of the hour.
- Ensuring Competition: The government must also ensure true unbundling of hardware, software, apps and payment gateways in the WANI system, as advocated by TRAI, to prevent monopolies.
- Also, increased competition will address the low data speed issue.
- RailTel Corporation is a PSU of Ministry of Railways a "Mini Ratna (Category-I) and is a largest neutral telecom services providers in the country owning a Pan-India optic fiber network covering all important towns and cities of the country and several rural areas covering 70% of India's population.
- PM WANI
Q. PM WANI scheme can revolutionise India’s tech world and significantly bridge the digital divide in India. Comment.