By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
This week the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) launched its new OpenWiFi initiative aimed at lowering cost and boosting innovation (read more here) and already OpenWiFi is seeding the ground for more affordable Wi-Fi across India. Leading Wi-Fi solution provider IO by HFCL is taking strides to apply their OpenWiFi-compliant APs to India’s giant PM-WANI public hotspot project. The world is next, IO Networks says.
The Telecom Infra Project’s OpenWiFi launch is only days old and already more significant Wi-Fi industry vendors are recognising the value and business opportunity inherent in the new disaggregation and open source initiative. Case in point: India’s IO by HFCL – a Wi-Fi NOW Partner – has in the course of a little more than a year reached major Wi-Fi supplier status delivering more than 150,000 APs and microwave radio units mostly to carrier clients and major ISPs across India.
Now the company is embracing TIP OpenWiFi open source architecture in order to lower equipment costs and expand their business into rural areas including supplying equipment and services to the Government of India’s giant PM-WANI public Wi-Fi project. The project is expected to result in the deployment of more than two million public Wi-Fi hotspots. And OpenWiFi is the perfect choice of technology for delivering the right Wi-Fi solutions to the project, says IO Networks.
“Our initial test results using our just released OpenWiFi APs installed at our PM-WANI model village Wi-Fi hotspot shows that we can get very close to the same Wi-Fi performance using OpenWiFi hardware and software as we can with our own proprietary systems. But here’s the big difference: The cost of developing the software is zero because it’s open source,” says Bhuvnesh Sachdeva, VP of Product Development at IO Networks by HFCL.
Bhuvnesh expects the company’s participation in OpenWiFi and its newly released low-cost OpenWiFi-compliant APs will open up for entirely new Wi-Fi markets for HFCL. The concept of open source in this case means that software development costs are shared among all the OpenWiFi community members and can therefore be kept low. This translates into low costs for the end users, he says – not just in India but across the globe.
“Anyone can plug an OpenWiFi compliant AP into an OpenWiFi network and expect it to work. This is the strength of the concept. This means we can compete everywhere where OpenWiFi projects exist, and of course not only in India. This means anyone can switch to HFCL hardware whenever they want. We believe this is a big, big opportunity for us and many others,” says Bhuvnesh.
Bhuvnesh says that IO will be ready to release their Wi-Fi 6 APs running on TIP OpenWiFi software by June of this year. He also says that the integration of OpenWiFi software so as to interoperate and comply with the requirements for PM-WANI will be part of HFCL’s contribution back into the OpenWiFi software stack so that others can benefit from their work, too.
“We believe that by contributing software back into the OpenWiFi community we’re helping to make the initiative sustainable. We want to be a big player and an important one for OpenWiFi, of course. But not to the exclusion of everyone else. We need many community members for the initiative to be strong and for it to grow to the benefit of all,” says Bhuvnesh.
IO by HFCL earlier this week released both indoor and outdoor OpenWiFi-compliant APs. The company says it will take a leadership role in setting up and operating an OpenWiFi test and compliance facility in India in collaboration with partners.