The Cabinet has finally approved the WANI project which has been in the trial phase for several years. Recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the WANI project aims at delivering broadband connectivity speeds to every user through the public Wi-Fi hotspots at affordable rates. As part of WANI, any entity (company, proprietorship, societies, non-profits, etc.) should easily be able to set up a paid public Wi-Fi Access Point. This project will pave the way for new categories like Public Data Offices (PDOs), Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) and application providers. These providers will be able to set up public Wi-Fi hotspots without any license.
WANI Project: What Exactly Is It?
“The Cabinet has cleared the PM-WANI Public Wi-Fi project that will unleash a broadband revolution in India and empower the lives of ordinary Indians, much like the PCO model of past decades that drove the mass proliferation of basic telephone services,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, Telecom Minister said. The project was drafted several years ago. Both Trai and DoT released their recommendations over the years and the regulator even conducted a pilot project for WANI.
The mission for WANI pilot project was
- Any entity should be easily able to set up a paid public Wi-Fi Access Point.
- Users should be easily able to discover WANI compliant SSIDs, do one-click authentication and payment, and connect one or more devices in a single session.
- The experience for a small entrepreneur to purchase, self-register, set-up and operate a PDO must be simple, low-touch and maintenance-free.
- The products available for consumption should begin from “sachet-sized,” i.e. low denominations ranging from Rs 2 to Rs 20, etc.
- Providers (PDO, PDOA, Access Point hardware/software, User authentication and KYC provider, and payment provider) are unbundled to eliminate silos and closed systems. This allows multiple parties in the ecosystem to come together and enable large scale adoption
"Cabinet today approved the WANI project recommended by Trai. It will create millions of inter-operable Wi-Fi Hotspots in the country and democratise the content distribution and broadband access to millions at affordable rates. This will be the UPI of connectivity services," said former Trai Chairman RS Sharma on Twitter.
That said, the WANI project might face some hurdles in the form of telecom operators. We already know that Indian telcos are against public Wi-Fi model because they say the data rates are already the cheapest, and setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots will not be of any use.