With an aim to increase internet penetration across the country, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come up with recommendations like setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots, reducing import duty on Wi-Fi equipment, infrastructure sharing and authentication of the users through eKYC process.
The regulator said, "A new framework should be put in place for setting up of Public Data Offices (PDOs). Under this framework, PDOs in agreement with Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs), should be allowed to provide public Wi-Fi services. This will not only increase the number of public hotspots but also make Internet service more affordable in the country".
TRAI said that during public consultations, it came across certain existing models which have managed to stimulate demand for paid public Wi-Fi by offering "sachet" sized access plans of low denominations ranging Rs 2 to Rs 20.
It also suggested that these PDOAs should be allowed to provide public Wi-Fi services without obtaining any licence, but should be subject to DoT prescribed registration requirements, including ensuring that e-KYC, authentication and recordkeeping (of customers, devices and PDOAs enlisted with the PDOs). "This will encourage village-level entrepreneurship and provide strong employment opportunities," Trai noted.
The regulator said that, the Department of Telecommunications can amend the terms of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence to allow for sharing of active infrastructure, in line with the Unified Licence (UL) as well as also clarify on all licence categories, that sharing of infrastructure related to Wi-Fi router, access point, backhaul, etc is allowed. The regulator also advised that the authentication through OTP (over the top) for accessing internet every time should be done away with.
It suggested that authentication can be done using eKYC, e-Electronic Customer Application Form (eCAF) and other electronic modes. Besides, after consultation with the security agencies, DoT can consider authentication via Media Access Control ID of the device or through a mobile APP that stores eKYC data of the subscriber. Trai said Wi-Fi hotspots will help in faster penetration of internet, especially in the rural areas, where the practice of using mobile internet still has to catch up.
Meanwhile, Broadband India Forum President TV Ramachandran praised the recommendations from the Regulator on 'Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wifi 'announced on Thursday-9th of March and called it as a huge step towards expediting the availability of affordable and accessible broadband everywhere and to achieve the vision of Digital India.
He also Explained the importance of this regulation, that based on Global Average of 1 hotspot for every 150 persons; India should have approx. 8 Million hotspots. However, the total number of hotspots as of 2016 based on TRAI's own report was only 31, 500. He was confident with the implementation of these recommendations; the number of hotspots would accelerate to help bridge the huge deficit that exists.
He further said, this would lead to introduction of a number of new small time players in Wifi provisioning space who will be able to boost the broadband availability to the masses. Besides he also mentioned that due to this, there is likely to be huge explosion of backhaul requirements and TSPs are likely to hugely benefit out of this.