Earlier this year, it was announced by Archaeological Survey of India that the heritage sites in Delhi will get free wifi for tourists. With a large number of people present on social media platforms, the idea behind this move is to motivate them to share over social media. More people talking about the tourist attractions will help in spreading the word and thus lure more tourists, both domestic and international. Sites like Qutub Minar, Red Fort and Humayun’s tomb are on top of the list of places to get the free Wi-Fi.
Few months prior to this announcement, we saw free Wi-Fi service being started in the Connaught Place and Khan Market regions of New Delhi. Long before that, Indian Railway started Wi-FI service in few Rajdhani trains and on New Delhi railway station.
The progress so far
While the move was widely appreciated, the real picture isn’t as pretty as it appeared to be in the news headlines and government announcements. Sure it was launched with BJP MP streaming Pharell William’s Happy on YouTube, it has been losing popularity among visitors because of numerous issues. According to multiple users, the service used to work fine in the initial days but coverage was very limited. Now things have worsened and users are unable to use the services at all. There is hardly any network coverage and they have to login multiple times which makes it more of an inconvenience than a facility. There were proposed plans to replace the light poles with ‘NextGen digital poles’ fitted with Wi-Fi routers, LED lamps and CCTV cameras but they have taken a back seat now.
Domestic travellers have the option of switching to their data networks if they need connectivity but international travellers are left helpless unless they have a local SIM card. The mobile networks aren’t any good, even in the metro cities. TRAI has been working with mobile operators to improve the quality of service but good 3G and 4G connectivity is still a distant dream for us.
The Indian Government is working to make India a connected destination and has initiated campaigns like Digital India but these issues are a roadblock in the way ahead. At this point, the infrastructure of our country isn’t supportive enough for an international traveller. We can take a page out of the book of some international destinations to improve the travellers’ experience here.
What others are doing
During our recent visit to Hong Kong for the RISE conference, we observed that they offer excellent support for international travellers. Throughout Hong Kong, you can find free Wi-Fi hotspots operated by CSL, Hong Kong’s first mobile communications operator. There are more than 15,000 hotspots strategically placed all over. The service works very well and offers seamless connectivity for the travellers.
Apart from that, Hong Kong tourism board provides international travellers with Discover Hong Kong Tourism SIM cards in association with CSL. It is available in two packages with the HK$ 118 package offering 5 GB of 4G data for 8 days. That is more than enough data for all your photo uploads and Skype calls for the duration of your stay. If you are planning to visit the neighbouring countries then you have the option to choose extended data coverage to Mainland China, Macau and Taiwan. It also includes unlimited local voice calls and preloaded credit for international calls. These SIM cards are easily available through multiple outlets including the International Airport Arrival Hall.
Apart from improving the quality of Wi-Fi networks that are already in place, Indian government can work with the major telecom operators here to offer similar options like Tourist SIM cards. This will not only help travellers stay connected but also promote India as a tourist destination by motivating them to share their experiences. What else do you think can be done to improve the experience of travellers coming to India and make it a truly connected destination?