O-Zone Signs MoU With Alcatel Lucent To Expand WiFi Hot Spots

WiFi service provider O-Zone Networks has signed an MoU with network equipment maker Alcatel Lucent to set-up WiFi hotspots across the country, reports PTI. The company intends to expand its WiFi hotspots to 20,000 by the end of 2012, according to O-Zone Networks CEO & Founder Sanjiv Bobby Sarin.

Alcatel Lucent will enable an intelligent WiFi network to facilitate easy switch over from 3G or 2G networks for O-Zone customers. It will also offer customized content to subscribers on the basis of their usage pattern, through Alcatel Lucent’s technology.
Funding, IPO Plans

In an interview to the Financial Chronicle, Sarin said that the company has raised funding from Access Industriesis and is fully funded for the current rollout. However, it plans to raise additional capital through an IPO, in the future.

Hotspots

O-Zone has about 5,000 hotspots across the country, out of which 3,000 are operational. According to Sarin, the company saw a growth of 30% in terms of users, on a month on month basis. It has carrier partnerships with Airtel and Aircel for WiFi hotspot access in the domestic market and international roaming tie-ups with Ipass, Boingo and Comfone. It plans to tie-up with 20 more international providers by year-end. O-Zone has location partnerships with Cafe Coffee Day, DLF, Fortis, Hard Rock Cafe, and Om Book Shop, among others, for facilitating internet access.

3G Vs WiFi

Sarin feels that WiFi should be the preferred mode of internet access indoors, co-existing with 3G and 4G. Since spectrum is scarce and cellular networks might get overloaded as more people start using data services, WiFi will act as a decongestant and ease up network load. Also, presently the internet users are not very happy with the 3G service quality offered by telcos at present. So, 3G and WiFi will need to be complimentary services for dependable connectivity. Are you listening Airtel! There are solutions other than pricing 3G higher!

Competetion

Although there are not many players in this sphere, O-Zone’s competitor, Spectranet had also announced last month, that it plans to invest Rs 500 crore through equity and debt, to expand its service across 50,000 hotspots. Spectranet has a tie-up with Aircel and powers Aircel WiFi.

Draft Cyber Cafe Rules

We believe that WiFi services would come under the Indian government’s proposed Cyber Cafe guidelines. If they do, then User Identification, maintaining and filing logs and setting up firewalls will hamper the growth of this service and discourage potential users, and make it expensive for small outlets to offer WiFi access. We expect that O-Zone’s WiFi outlets will also come under these guidelines.

What A Consumer Wants

– Integrated billing with a cellphone carrier so that there is no need of using a credit card or a prepaid card to access a WiFi hotspot.

– Assurance of privacy and security. A lot of people are skeptical of privacy and security, while browsing through a WiFi hotspot. We do not support O-Zone offering customized content by monitoring consumption habbits as this amounts to intrusion of the user’s online privacy.

– Reliable connectivity. WiFi connectivity is still not considered to be reliable and people carry their data cards just in case they don’t get a good signal.

– Reasonable pricing and no fair usage limits. Although to discourage indiscriminate use WiFi providers can keep a check on things like Torrents, public access hotspots shoild not cap usage and should be time based.

– Tie-ups with coffee chains to provide free WiFi access. Rewards or membership programs to boost repeat usage.

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