DePINs to decentralize internet access and connectivity in India

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Internet connectivity in the world’s most populous country is about to become more decentralized thanks to a new decentralized physical infrastructure network (DePIN) innovation. 

On March 15, internet service provider Wifi Dabba said it would deploy more than 100,000 of its devices — all housed on its DePIN on Solana — to users across India by the end of the year to “connect the unconnected.”

According to Wifi Dabba, despite India’s massive population of 1.43 billion people, the penetration of broadband connectivity is low. It reports only 30 million citizens have regular access to WiFi, with just under 50% having no access of any kind.

This upcoming deployment will be the second time the company issues its DePIN-connected devices,  already reporting a steady monthly consumption of 90–100 terabytes of paid data across the already sold devices. 

Wifi Dabba said users who own their router hardware can earn the Wifi Dabba token as a reward for the data consumed by hotspot users.

Cointelegraph spoke with the heads of Wifi Dabba to understand why India is the perfect location to deploy DePIN technology for this use case of decentralized internet.

Karam Lakshman, the CEO of Wifi Dabba, said in addition to the lack of access for many Indians, the dominant major telecom companies focus on urban areas in what he called “tier 1 and 2 cities.”

“This means it could take several decades to connect the entire country, not factoring in future spikes in data demand,” he said. He also pointed out that India, as the fifth-largest economy and the second-largest holder of crypto, “stands at the forefront of economic growth and technological innovation, underscoring the urgent need for faster infrastructure development.”

Lakshman also highlighted how the scalability of DePIN technology presents a viable solution not only for India but also for other developing nations facing similar connectivity challenges.

“India serves as a crucial test bed for refining this model, which can subsequently be replicated worldwide to address connectivity issues on a global scale.” 

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Shubhendu Sharma, the chief operating officer of Wifi Dabba, said that compared to the centralized model, which is dominated by a few telecom firms, the advantages of DePINs allow for accelerated infrastructure expansion through the involvement of incentivized deployers like local cable operators.

“Additionally, the transparency inherent in a decentralized network enables the public availability of data, fostering a vibrant open-source community and driving the development of innovative tools and solutions.”

Sharma highlighted how the involvement of multiple stakeholders and the transparency of the DePIN model can potentially offer users both “better services and accountability.”

Wifi Dabba’s existing networks in Bangalore are said to have witnessed a “widespread usage across diverse economic strata,” with use cases from taxi and delivery drivers to corporate executives.

The company has also played a role in Google’s local public WiFi initiatives in the country, Sharma said, as well as laser free-space optical communication internet deployments in India, which have contributed to enhancing internet accessibility nationwide. 

DePINs have been gaining traction in Web3 as the next big innovation to bridge the decentralized world with the mainstream. In 2023, one company tokenized 100 Tesla cars on the blockchain using DePIN technology to democratize and decentralize a ride-sharing initiative in Europe.

Dawn Philip, the communications director for Wifi Dabba, said they anticipate a “significant surge” in the adoption of DePINs and supporting services in 2024, particularly in developing nations.

“DePINs are poised to find a substantial market fit in these regions, where infrastructure development is needed the most. Unlike the developed world, where infrastructure is largely established, and market saturation is evident, the developing world presents an untapped potential for decentralized networks to flourish.”

Earlier in 2024, some DeFi executives echoed these sentiments with the addition of artificial intelligence, calling the pair the “power duo” of 2024. 

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