Nokia considers free WiFi service in India

Nokia has set up 26 WiFi hotspots to provide free WiFi service in London. If things work out, Nokia might extend free WiFi services to some cities in Africa and India. While the western world is used to WiFi hotspots and free WiFi access, India is still warming up to the Internet in general.

The market is still small, in comparison to the total population. India has less than 15 million smartphones and has shipped 2.4 million smartphones in Q2 2011. That is less than 6% of total mobile phone market in India.

That scenario is changing. Exploding may be the better term. The Indian smartphone scene has changed dramatically and WiFi enabled smartphones are available for as low as $110. Not just that there is a new breed of phones from manufacturers like Karbonn and Wynncom called ‘smarter’ phones.

These smarter phones are capable of Internet browsing over WiFi, can do email, Facebook, Twitter and a few other things. These phones lack 3G and touch screens but serve the basic needs of connectivity.

Nokia’s free WiFi, if and when it comes, would not be the first. Bangalore is offering free WiFi on its trains, though its only available on a 7 km stretch.

A free WiFi service from Nokia would have several benefits.

For starters, it can get some first time users onto the Internet, because there is better incentive than trying something for free and later getting addicted. Google had a similar initiative where it had an Internet enabled bus roam across the hinterlands of India. Google’s bus has exposed the benefits of Internet to many Indians.

Nokia’s free WiFi could help Nokia re-establish its brand value. Nokia is trying to make amends with a new set of dual SIM phones, a new series of phones called Akash and high-end Windows powered phones.

Of course, nothing really is free on this planet of 7 billion people. Nokia can display targeted advertisements to its WiFi subscribers, but you already know that.