Where does a bus ride offer a free Wi-Fi service in Pakistan? On the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus with speeds of up to 36 Mbps provided through the Charji device. With over 18 million Internet users across the country, according to a study, it is evident that ‘Wireless Internet’ known as ‘Wi-Fi’, has become one of the most basic necessities of life for many Pakistanis. A major portion of Wi-Fi users belong to the youth segment. Aged between 18-35 years, this segment displays a rapidly growing sense of being tech-savvy. Now almost every person above the age of 16 owns a mobile phone that can easily connect to the Internet.
Wi-Fi on Metro buses is a bold step by Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL). It is a calculated response to changing trends and the eventual rise in popularity of broadband Internet connectivity, which enables devices to connect to cyberspace via wireless data connections.
Faced with a rising demand for high speed Internet, the Chief Minister of the Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif gave his approval for free Wi-Fi in all public places. PTCL took the lead when they installed Wi-Fi on the Islamabad-Rawalpindi Metro Bus system. The project now appears to have become a roaring success.
In PTCL’s latest release of data, which depicts the break-up of total Internet usage from June 6 to September 6 across the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus route, commuters used 6.4 terabytes. The statistics show that at a total of 24 Metro Stations, the average use of Internet at each station was 277 gigabytes (GB) while on all stations, the average stood at 71 GB per day. The number of hours of Internet usage for all stations, in just the first 3 months of launch of the Metro Bus system, stood at a whopping 52,317 hours with total Internet usage in terms of hours on a daily basis at each station ranking at 23.7 hours.
The PTCL data also revealed data pertaining to the usage of Internet on the number of buses traveling the route. With a total of 68 buses, the total usage of Internet stood at 3.7 terabytes with an average usage per bus of 56 GB. The daily average of usage per bus was 600 MB.
The most active bus was Number 17, which recorded the highest Internet usage at a staggering 161 GB. The total Internet usage time was 33,971 hours. Some of the most active stations in the Metro system in terms of Internet usage as highlighted by the statistics included the Faizabad Interchange, Shamsabad, Shaheed-e-Millat Road, Ibn-e-Sina Road and Committee Chowk in Rawalpindi. This shows that the largest number of Internet users frequently using wireless connectivity services for their online needs belonged to these areas.
If anything, PTCL’s Metro Bus Wi-Fi project has shed light on the country’s growing requirement for quality Internet. We live in an environment of constant change where speedy information is the key if one wants to get ahead of the curve. In Pakistan, the lines determining the difference between various levels of the social classes are beginning to fade away as now everyone can access a world of information at the mere touch of a button. In these conditions, the introduction of a Wi-Fi-enabled public transport service speaks volumes of the PTCL initiative to provide people with higher levels of connectivity.
Critics of the venture may talk about the variety of technical errors and even the possibility of data or identity theft via wireless devices of customers using the service as reasons to not go for it. However, its needs to be borne in mind that free Wi-Fi on the Islamabad-Rawalpindi Metro Bus system is the first of its kind in Pakistan. It offers the opportunity to commuters to stay connected with their friends and family at all times, besides offering students, office workers and others the limitless opportunity to download information from the Internet.
It is no wonder then that many segments of the population are actively supporting the venture, hoping that this would prove to enhance the quality of public transport services in the country.