The Department of Telecom and the Ministry of Rural Development are considering expanding Wi-Fi services in rural areas using the National Optical Fiber Network, which is being laid to connect 2.5 lakh villages. The government is planning to spend Rs 25,000 crore over the next 10 years to bring Wi-Fi connectivity to villages.
Wi-Fi connectivity helps users to connect on the Internet without using mobile data services. Tablets that are Wi-Fi enabled can also be used easily to stay connected and they are also cheaper than using cellular data services. According to an estimate by DOT, the proposal will require a capital expenditure of Rs 3,900 crore and will have operational expenditure of Rs 2,060 crore per year.
The Ministry of Rural Development stated that it has no such provision in its budget, and will need Cabinet approval to fund the proposal. The next meeting is expected to be held in the last week of Nov. The Cabinet had earlier approved Rs 20,000 crore for the optical fiber network project in 2011, which will be completed in 2014-15.
A official source stated, "The capex will met out of USO (Universal Service Obligation) Fund and operating expenditure will be met by the rural development ministry for a period of 10 years."
According to a recent report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI) and IMRB, India will have more than 243 million Internet users by June 2014 and will soon become world's second largest Internet base after China. India has nearly 110 million mobile internet users of which 25 million are in rural India.