Trai has already submitted its recommendations to the DoT
Trai on Thursday sought telecom ministry's nod for carrying forward its proposal on creating a framework for public wifi hotspots to proliferate broadband across the country, a move that would increase the number of access points for high digital inclusion.
But industry expert says as the current licensing regime stands of DoTstands, these could raise some regulatory, parallel network and revenue issues with the government besides opposition from private operators who could take a hit on their revenue .
Trai chairman R S Sharma on Thursday made a presentation to TelecomMinister Manoj Sinha buyoed by the success of a pilot projects in Noida and Bengaluru of its ambitious model of a public Wi-Fi grid that aims to slash internet access cost by 90 per cent and push broadband coverage in India.
Trai has already submitted its recommendations on the Broadband proliferation through public Wifi hotspots and is pending with the DoT last year.
As India significantly trails other nations in providing access to broadband, especially in rural areas, Trai has pitched hard for the need for bringing in new set of small players for Wi-Fi service provisioning.
The grid as suggested by Trai envisages multiple providers coming together on one platform to address aspects like access, services, payment, and authentication. These Public Data Office providers are expected to offer Wi-Fi services which would be complementary to the data services by the mobile network provider.
Analysts said there is a lack of clarity on whether reselling of bandwidth can be done by unregistered entities. Historically, telecom operators and registered ISPs have argued that only they should be allowed to sell bandwidth, and only licensed entities should be allowed to offer Internet access.
These WiFi hotspots is what TRAI calls Public Data Offices, which are essentially kirana stores that can can sell WiFi packs at as low as `2 a sachet.
Sharma said PDOs are to be the new PCOs, and for there to be WiFi hotspots across India.
Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said DoT would discuss the Trai proposal further in the time to come. Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan and Bharat Broadband Network Projects CMD Sanjay Singh were also present during Sharma's presentation.
DoT is separately set an ambitious target of deploying 500,000 Wi-Fi hot spots by December across the country from the current 38,000. The Ministry has already sought participation of private telecom operators and states in the BharatNet project to take high speed broadband project to rural areas who would be funded from the USO Fund.
An analyst said BharatNet may not be a revenue earning project for DoT and BSNL, but now that private operators are involved, they would feel threatened by a parallel structure as suggested by Trai. As it is their voice and data revenues are already under pressure and their interests in BharatNet would be lessen.
PDOs will be companies, or even small merchants, interested in providing Wi-Fi hotspots to public using either free or paid model.
In its recommendation, TRAI had suggested that PDOAs be allowed, which can provide WiFi services without obtaining a license. They would be required to register with the Department of Telecom complying with specific security requirements. “The public Wi-Fi pilot outcome aims to offer a seamless experience to end users...This will allow small entrepreneurs such as tea shops, grocery shops etc. To set up and maintain access points. Whereas, device manufacturers, payment companies, Internet Service Providers/Telcos and consumer internet companies can provide the remaining pieces to set up PDOs," it had said in the report.
Sharma said Trai plans to develop a framework similar to the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to aid the rollout of public Wi-Fi hot spots in the country.