The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper, seeking views on making broadband available through public Wi-Fi networks that would make data available at a tenth of mobile networks’ costs. The regulator has also asked if non-telecom companies should be allowed to participate in setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots.

TRAI said on the basis of informal discussion held with various stakeholders, a Wi-Fi network of 20 hotspots was designed for a Tier-II city catering to around 40,000 subscribers and 10,000 concurrent users, it is estimated that cost per MB in Wi-Fi network could be less than 2p per MB. Consumers on an average pay around 23p per MB for the data usage in the cellular network (2G/3G/4G).

“This shows the consumer tariff rate for data may reduce as much as one-tenth in Wi-Fi compared to mobile data. From the above, it is obvious that deployment of Wi-Fi network will not only enhance the speed of internet but will also make data affordable to consumers,” TRAI said.

The regulator has sought public views by August 10 on slew of issues including regulatory hurdles, licensing restrictions, business models, inter-operability between Wi-Fi networks and delicensing of more mobile airwaves.

“In this paper, ‘public Wi-Fi networks’ has broader meaning and not limited to the wi-fi hotspot created by licensed TSP/ISP at public places. There could be small entrepreneurs or even a very small entity which would like to participate in common and shared Wi-Fi network for larger public use,” TRAI said in its consultation paper on proliferation of broadband through public Wi-Fi networks.

The regulator has also raised other issues like what policy measures are 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.

The public views have also been sought on adoption of a “hub-based model” where a central third party Authentication, Authorization and Accounting hub will facilitate interconnection, authentication and payments and who should own and control such hub. The regulator said that status of Wi-Fi hotspots in India is not encouraging despite it represents one-sixth of the world population but its share in Wi-Fi hotspots is less than one-thousandth.

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. - Business Standard

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