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MarcaTel Wi Fi Solutions: Connecting millions in rural areas to Digital Highway

Narayanan Rajagopalan, President of LaMarca Group, in May 2016 launched a telecom company MarcaTel, which aims at providing India’s first Wi-Fi based Tele Connectivity Network.  Narayanan tells BK Jha about the Company’s progress and plans. 

Narayanan Rajagopalan,
Group President, LaMarca
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As a telecom company MarcaTel, with its Wi-Fi based Tele Connectivity Network, aims to provide the last mile internet connectivity, thereby connecting millions of people in rural areas to Digital Highway. First of all, how do you see India’s telecommunications market?  

India is world’s second-largest telecommunications market. Governmental policies are encouraging competition thereby fuelling predatory pricing and industry consolidation. Government’s easy market access to telecom equipment and a proactive regulatory framework has ensured availability of telecom services to consumer at affordable prices. Driven by strong adoption of data consumption on handheld devices, the total mobile services market revenue in India is expected to touch US$ 37 billion in 2017, registering a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.2 per cent between 2014 and 2017, according to research firm IDC. India offers huge potential for data service providers as well. We are eyeing these opportunities especially in rural areas. 

Is public Wi-Fi hotspots business witnessing robust growth in India?

Globally it is estimated that public Wi-Fi hotspots to grow to 340 million by 2017 amounting to 1 hotspot for every  20 people, as against the current ratio of 1 hotspot for every 150 people. Most of the public Wi-Fi hotspots in India are venue-based deployments such as at airports and railway stations, hotels and shopping malls, restaurants, coffee shops, and retail outlets.
Currently 31,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots are installed in India and are poised to grow beyond 202,000 by 2018  Huge gap exists between India and global average as additional 800,000 hotspots are need to be deployed to  match the current global average of one public Wi-Fi hotspot per 150 people. The government of India aims to have 7.5 lakh wi-fi public hotspots by 2018-end.

What exactly Marcatel would offer in this Wi-Fi space?

Marcatel provides low-cost, sustainable “last mile” Wi-Fi solutions to connect people across the Indian Landscape. Our solutions enable Internet access in urban, semi-urban, rural and remote areas. It is sustainable and can operate 24/7 on grid power, solar panels and rechargeable batteries. Moreover, it is flexible, adapts to local infrastructure and connects with the Internet through fiber, satellite or microwave.  Local cloud with access to local e-learning, e-health, e-governance, entertainment and more is yet another advantage. In a country as vast and diversified as India, the social divides are often the determining factor for the advancement of people. Very rarely a small investment can sustain a steady and continuous income as MarcaTel Wi Fi Solutions.

Each of the owners of MarcaTel Wi-Fi Solution will be part of Digital India and contribute to the national growth while ensuring personal growth. They will all be Entrepreneurs by their own right, although at a micro level.

What are your specific solutions? 

First of all, we have UMBRELLA which connects up to 200 carrier class Wi-Fi zones both indoors and outdoors and up to 15 kilometers from the central base station. UMBRELLA is a Point to Multipoint (PtMP) system and typically used in semi-urban and rural areas. Likewise, LINK connects a range of base stations with a distance of up to 20km between base stations. Each base station supports up to 500m Wi-Fi coverage. LINK is a Point to Point (PtP) system and typically used to cover and connect several rural villages.

REACH is a solution that provides fast installation and reliable Wi-Fi coverage in almost any location globally. This solution is typically used in remote areas without any existing infrastructure and is also an optimal solution for e.g. refugee camps, disaster relief and exploration purposes, areas of large congregation such as Trade fairs, Kumbh mela, etc.

What are your target markets and geographies?  

Initially we are focusing on Retail Franchise Module, Governments, Institutions and Value Added Services. Our target locations by year 2018 include Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand. I would like to mention it here that our technology partner is Denmark’s Bluetown and we have won contracts in four states to install over 15,000 Wi-Fi installations in villages. For example, our installations in Jharkhand will benefit over a million villagers. 

What are the main growth drivers for the company?

We are perfectly aligned with the Government of India’s initiatives such as Digital India for empowerment, Start Up India for Entrepreneurship, Skill India for Employment and Stand Up India for Equality. So 4 Es- Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, Employment and Equality- are our core philosophy. Marcatel wi-fi network aims to reach the farthest corner of the country thereby allowing the common access to information which in turns allows him to take empowered decisions. We are offering unique business model where anyone can become an entrepreneur by investing Rs 6 lakh and can fetch healthy returns on investment. The company aims to generate employment in rural areas for maintenance engineers, business associates and field engineers. It is also our endeavour to ensure that atleast 35% of the installations across the country are owned and management by women and minority community.   

 

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