Kolkata with Wireless Fidelity


The social media (that I’m connected to) started reverberating with a single fact a few days back.

Kolkata will soon become WiFi enabled

This was big news. Some considered it to be a rumour, since for most, it was too good to be true. The need for internet has been escalating in the last few years. Kolkata needed WiFi. And it was served what it needed.

The 5th of February, 2015 was historic.

I got the chance to be present at the formal launch of the free 4G WiFi provided by Reliance Jio, at Park Street, as a part of Kolkata Bloggers.

The stage being set
The stage being set

Having arrived late, I was unable to get a certain privilege 10 bloggers of the Kolkata Bloggers team obtained – WiFi access an hour and a half before the connection was made ‘open’ for the public!

The audience eagerly waiting for the launch
The audience eagerly waiting for the launch

The event was inaugurated by the mayor – Shovan Chatterjee.

Shovan Chatterjee
Shovan Chatterjee

Following him, Subrata Mukherjee spoke on the upcoming digital age Kolkata would be entering into.

Subrata Mukherjee

Mr. Tarun Jhunjhunwala (from Reliance) then spoke about the 4G technology that would encompass the city.

Tarun Jhunjhunwala
Tarun Jhunjhunwala

At this point, let me tell you about the WiFi connection. A misconception has spread that only 4G enabled devices will be able to access this connection. Reliance Jio is equipping the citizens of Kolkata an internet connection that will supply 4G internet speed, but through WiFi, purely. This means that any device, that can harness WiFi, can use this connection.

The night stage!
The night stage!

Following Mr Jhunjhunwala, the honourable Chief Minister of West Bengal – Mamata Banerjee – took the microphone to thank Reliance for their support.This had been a ‘secret’ project. During the past two years, optical fibers were laid down throughout the city, and WiFi hotspots were set up in various places in Kolkata. This was possible primarily due to the efforts of Reliance – and the workers who were employed to do the task.

Mamata Banerjee speaking
Mamata Banerjee

The chief minister then connected to the WiFi network, and posted the first Twitter update with #WiFiKolkata:

The Chief Minister's first tweet using the WiFi connection by Reliance
The Chief Minister’s first tweets using the WiFi connection by Reliance

huge round of applause followed when the tweet was made visible on the giant screen!

When the tweets were posted
When the tweets were posted

The audience was notified that the WiFi would be made available for the public at 6:00 PM.

Reliance Jio demonstrated the WiFi speeds on the giant screen.

Speed test by Ookla
Speed test by Ookla

Kolkata’s favourite singer/songwriter Anupam Roy took up his guitar and sang two immensely popular songs written by him.

Anupam Roy [Photograph by Asmita Nandy]

The crowd was delighted!

Dr. Amit Mitra ended the event with a note of thanks.

Dr. Sanjay Mitra
Dr. Amit Mitra

If you wish to skip over to the instructions to connect to the WiFi network, click here.

This was clearly a milestone in the history of Kolkata. Anirban Saha, the lead of Kolkata Bloggers had posted a question on his Facebook Timeline

What is your take on Wi-Fi enabled Kolkata?

While some were feeling extremely positive about the advent of WiFi throughout the city…

Its a big step towards digital literacy. People till now who were not sure if they should have mobile data will now enjoy and taste the free service and finally join the digital world. So its a step towards digital literacy for the mass.

– Supratik Chatterjee

…certain people pointed out some different, valid points. I believe two are extremely important.

  1. The city doesn’t really ‘need’ WiFi enabled sections as much as it needs a proper drainage system during the rainy season. Calcutta lacks in the fundamental needs of a proper metropolitan, and those requirements should be fulfilled first. Making the city WiFi enabled can be added as the final strokes to a Masterpiece.
    – Amitendu Maity
  2. How efficiently will this work? Currently, the load isn’t that much, and frankly, handling a single area in Kolkata – the Park Street region – is much easier compared to the mayor’s goal of providing WiFi to Salt Lake, Rajarhat, Barasat – covering the entire city! How will it hold up in the future?

Apart from these two factors, the question of the day was

How’s the internet speed?

No one can answer this question. As more and more users connect, we’ll get to see the outcome. From that day, and from the little we used, it was fine. I’m including this snippet from Anirban Saha’s Blog to give you a better idea:

The major skepticism about this Wi-Fi are about the speed it will offer and how free it shall be after a few months. The little that we have used – seemed fine. Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien, informed more than 230 routing machines were installed in Park Street itself, each capable of handling 40 machines. That’s precisely 9200 machines in Park Street alone can access the WiFi without the speed drooping down. While Reliance is keeping tight lipped, insiders in the ruling political party informed me – freemium model is what is desired. Since this is a cost proposition, Reliance might charge money but not any time soon (might be after Durga Pujas).

Let’s hope this works out well. The entire generation of netizens is hoping this 🙂

The Kolkata Bloggers team with Derek O'Brien
The Kolkata Bloggers team with Derek O’Brien [from Sourav Ghosh]

The WiFi is currently limited to Park Street. It can be used for an indefinite amount of time. Later, certain restrictions may be imposed as to the time or the data usage.

Finally, here are the instructions to connect to the network:
  1. Switch on your ‘WiFi’
  2. Search for networks
  3. Select Jio or Jionet (whichever is available) from the list of available connections
  4. A tab will open on your browser; or, in case it doesn’t, simply open a browser, and the required tab will appear
  5. You will see a screen similar to this:

    Ignore the 'invalid phone number' text
    Ignore the ‘invalid phone number’ text
  6. As soon as you submit your phone number, you will receive a text message with your six-digit password.
  7. Enter the password, and tick the box agreeing to ‘Terms and Conditions’
  8. You can now use the free WiFi by Reliance
  9. However, do not close the Jio tab. Closing the tab will disconnect you.
  10. Save your password for logging into the network later.

For more information on Reliance Jio’s target on providing WiFi to the whole nation, check this link:  Reliance Jio to roll out services in 800 cities 

The photographs used here were obtained from Anirban Saha and the twitter page of Kolkata Bloggers.

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