Reader's Poll

Which of the following technologies/concepts are likely to witness significant traction this year?
Any data to show


Tele Data

Mobile Subscribers Yearwise comparision

  • JUser::_load: Unable to load user with id: 679

Airlink India Wireless : Early mover in the niche Wi-Fi market

June 19, 2012
E-mail Print PDF

In countries with high broadband penetration, Wi-Fi has emerged as a popular data offloading strategy for next-generation network operators. Though its growth in India has been limited so far, with the launch of 3G and 4G services, and the rising demand for smartphones, netbooks, tablets and laptops, especially in the country’s metros and Tier 1 cities, there is increasing uptake of Wi-Fi services. Anticipating this opportunity, several players have entered this niche market in the past few years. One such company is Airlink India Wireless Private Limited.

Founded by two technocrats, Jasbir Singh and Paramjit Singh Puri, in 2009, Airlink has an established network of 500 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, in boutique hotels, cafés and food outlets. The company is set to take this number to 1,500 by the year-end.

“Venturing into the Wi-Fi hotspot business was a strategic decision we took two years ago as Indian telecom operators required these hotspots to avoid data logjams on their networks, which have been running on limited spectrum,” says Puri. The company’s strategy paid off as many operators, who recently launched 3G and 4G services, have begun working on data offload options like Wi-Fi and femtocells. Backed by strong technical tie-ups and an established Wi-Fi network, Airlink has been able to forge agreements with operators like Airtel, Aircel and Reliance Communications for sharing its hotspots. It is in similar talks with operators like Vodafone and Idea Cellular.

Airlink was set up as a sister concern of California-based Pronto Networks Inc., a products and turnkey service delivery and management platform provider for wireless/Wi-Fi operations. The company’s  association with Pronto dates back to the early 2000s, when its founder, Jasbir Singh was setting up operations in India. Both Puri and Singh worked with Pronto to help establish it as a back-end OSS/BSS provider for wireless networks. The company has a software development centre in Bengaluru.

According to Puri, “Pronto’s experience in providing back-end services and Airlink’s expertise in servicing end-users have enabled us to work with leading telecom operators of the country.”

However, the Wi-Fi hotspot business is not the only segment the company has been operating in. “Setting up Wi-Fi hotspots was a strategic decision and this segment does not bring in revenues at present. Most of our revenues come from the managed services segment,” says Puri.

Airlink’s managed services portfolio comprises setting up and managing Wi-Fi systems for enterprises on both a fixed- and variable-cost basis. So far, the company has focused on two key enterprise verticals: hotels and hospitality, and education; hotels because these are places where there is a significant demand for internet services from foreign tourists and business clients; and education because of the changing structure of teaching, especially in management colleges. It has also begun offering these services across the telecom, retail, healthcare and realty sectors as there has been a significant increase in their communications and data requirements. For instance, Airlink has provided Wi-Fi connectivity to more than 100 of Aircel’s mini COCO stores. In addition, the company has set up Wi-Fi systems in more than 150 hotels across the country. These include properties of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Lemon Tree Hotels and the ITC Group.

While so far Airlink has utilised its internal funds to set up its infrastructure, going forward, the company is considering seeking funding from either private equity players or some strategic investors. In order to grow its network to 2,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in 2012, the company would need an investment of Rs 15 million to Rs 20 million. Given that setting up a hotspot can cost from Rs 15,000 to Rs 200,000, the company would require additional funds to increase the network to its target of over 15,000 hotspots by 2015.

In the case of its managed services business too, Airlink would require funding to set up Wi-Fi systems based on the capital expenditure model, where it incurs capital expenditure and charges its clients a fixed amount on a monthly basis.

In all, the company has carved a niche for itself in this operator-led telecom market. Given the need for data offloading in today’s spectrum-deficit market, Airlink’s business model seems to be moving towards success. Further, the company hopes to capture three other revenue streams – revenues from operators whose subscribers use the company’s hotspots, mobile advertising and location-based services.

 Your cart is empty

Monday morning

Monday morning