The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday issued a consultation paper seeking views on using public WiFi networks to be able to provide affordable internet services. The paper explores the possibility of a sustainable public WiFi model both in form of a single independent network, as well as with interoperability between different mobile networks.
In its paper, citing data from iPass and Maravedis Rethink, TRAI has said that India had 31,518 WiFi hotspots in the country, and to reach the global benchmark of one hotspot for every 150 citizens, India needs to add 8 lakh more hotspots.
“The situation of WiFi hotspots is not encouraging in India as we represent one sixth of the world population whereas our share in WiFi hotspots is less than 1/1,000,” Trai said.
In order to increase the number of hotspots across the country, Trai has sought views on the regulatory and licensing hurdles being faced by service providers, and the measures need to be taken to address these issues.
On May 29, The Indian Express had exclusively reported, quoting Trai chairman RS Sharma that the watchdog would soon begin consultations to explore a sustainable model for WiFi in public places, considering that the models deployed hitherto both by private and state-owned firms have largely remained unsuccessful.
“What we want is that user should be able to move from one place to another and seamlessly get connected. This is the architecture that we’re looking at — interoperability between WiFi providers, seamless payment methods. These are some of the aspects of how you can create a structure which enables WiFi in public places,” Sharma had said.
TRAI has sought views on integration of various networks, and has asked suggestions for measures that would be required to encourage interoperability between the WiFi networks of various service providers, both within the country and abroad. The regulator has also explored the possibility of interoperability between cellular and WiFi networks to create seamless connectivity.
In its paper issued on Wednesday, TRAI said it believed that public WiFi hotspots were an alternative method to providing low-cost internet services to a large number of people, even in the rural areas, keeping in mind that the equipment needed come at a low-cost. According to calculations made by TRAI, cost of internet provided through WiFi could cost Rs 0.02 per megabit at a time when consumers are already paying Rs 0.23 per megabit on 2G/3G/4G networks.
With an aim to make the payments system on WiFi networks smoother, TRAI has also sought views on the model that could be put in place that would “offer frictionless and secured payment for access of wi-fi services”.
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