Trai now focuses on public WiFi for broadband access to masses, issues paper

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Indian telecom regulator has come up with a new consultation paper to seek public views on allowing non-telecom companies to participate in setting up public wifi hotspots, a move that can help boost broadband availability through deployment of affordable Wi-Fi networks in public places.


The regulator, Trai, has also said that low- cost Wi-Fi access infrastructure could slash internet rates by up to 90 per cent. The regulator estimated that the cost per MB in a WiFi network could be less than 2 paise. Currently, customers pay an average 23 paise/MB for data usage on 2G, 3G or 4G networks.

"This shows that the consumer tariff for data may reduce as much as one-tenth in Wi-Fi compared to mobile data.," Trai said.

"It's obvious that deployment of a WiFi network will not only enhance internet speeds, but will also make data affordable to consumers, and hence help in bringing the unconnected to the connected world," the regulator said in the paper.

Globally, the increase in number of Wi-Fi hotspots from 2013 to 2016 has been 568 per cent whereas India has an increase of 12 per cent only, according to the regulator. The regulator, through its paper on Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks, has sought public views by August 10 on a number of issues including regulatory hurdles, licensing restrictions, business models, interoperability between WiFi networks and delicensing of more mobile spectrum.

Trai, in the paper, said that public Wi-Fi networks has broader meaning and not limited to the Wi-Fi hotspot created by licensed TSP/ISP at public places, which means small entrepreneurs or even a very small entity which would like to participate in common and shared Wi-Fi network for larger public use.

The regulator said that status of Wi-Fi hotspots in India is not encouraging as while the country represents one-sixth of the world population but its share in Wi-Fi hotspots is less than one-thousandth.

Trai, through this paper, also seeks to discuss other issues including policy measures to encourage policy measures required to encourage the deployment of commercial models for city-wide Wi-Fi networks as well as expansion of Wi-Fi networks in remote or rural areas.

Further, the regulator is also seeking views on adoption of a hub-based model. Under this model, a central third party Authentication, Authorization and Accounting hub will facilitate interconnection, authentication and payments and who should own and control such hub.

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