BENGALURU: Free wi-fi works at the Jayanagar and Shanthinagar bus stands and on the M G Road Boulevard, but not on the Metro, a City Express reality check has found. Earlier this week, Karnataka IT Secretary Srivatsa Krishna promised wireless Internet for all of Bengaluru. But a quick survey found citizens largely unaware about the free wi-fi the government already provides at select locations.
So far, Namma Wi-fi, a government initiative, covers about a half dozen hotspots, and can be accessed by an individual for three hours a day at 512 Kbps, with a download limit of 50 MB.
At the Shanthinagar bus terminus, the service is inconsistent. This reporter was able to access it, but Aijaz Hussain, a Kashmiri businessman in the city for work, was unsuccessful, even after an hour of trying, to use the wi-fi to book a private bus to Puducherry.
"It just keeps saying 'no Internet signal' after my phone detects the wi-fi," he said.
If it works, it is particularly useful for tourists who might otherwise have to cough up roaming charges. "I've found it really helpful at airports and railway stations," he said.
The boulevard on M G Road provided the best free browsing experience. This reporter used an Android phone, and was able to chat on Whatsapp for about half an hour. However, it was not so easy to open web pages. After an hour in the area, Whatsapp sent a notification saying the free wi-fi could not be used to send or receive any more messages.
Youngsters near the boulevard, where the service was launched by Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy early this year, many were unaware of the free service, and were using the 3G offered by their mobile service providers.
"I've tried the free wi-fi a couple of times, but web pages don't load. All you can do is chat on Whatsapp," said Sakith, a Class 12 student of Kendriya Vidyalaya, waiting for a friend.
Like the 15-year-old, most professionals, even the tech-savvy ones, bypass the service. "My wi-fi on all the time, but I've never noticed the free service before you told me," said Shefali, who handles marketing for a media organisation and visits M G Road at least a couple of times a day.
She has tried to use the free wi-fi while travelling on the Metro, but her phone has never picked up the signal.
However, at the Rangoli Metro Art Centre, customer relations officer Umesh D S said his colleagues often use the free wi-fi.
"Many of them are not subscribed to any Internet service, so it helps them. I have 3G, so for me it's like a backup," he said.
Chandrashekar, a social work student who hails from Malur, said free wi-fi could distract students. "They could bunk classes and come here just to browse," he said.
Metro no show
In August last year, the Namma Metro said it had introduced free wi-fi.
This reporter tried to connect all the way from M G Road to Indiranagar and back, but the wi-fi was not detected.