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TRAI issues CP on increasing broadband connectivity through public Wi-Fi

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a consultation paper on the proliferation of broadband through public Wi-Fi networks.

The objective of this consultation paper is to examine the need for encouraging public Wi-Fi networks in the country from a public policy point of view, discuss the issues in its proliferation and find out solutions for the same.

In this paper, the phrase ‘public Wi-Fi networks’ has a 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 networks for larger public use, the authority said.

According to TRAI, wireless data communication technologies can play a significant role in the penetration of broadband due to the ease of deployment and faster rollout.

It also allows telecommunication service providers to offload their cellular data through Wi-Fi networks to reduce traffic on their data networks by making use of unlicensed spectrum.

While doing so, operators are in a position to offer a better user experience and higher access speeds to subscribers in the Wi-Fi zone, hence facilitating subscriber satisfaction and retention, the authority noted.

The issues for consultation are as follows:

  • Are there any regulatory issues, licensing restrictions or other factors that are hampering the growth of public Wi-Fi services in the country?
  • What regulatory/licensing or policy measures are required to encourage the deployment of commercial models for ubiquitous city-wide Wi-Fi networks as well as expansion of Wi-Fi networks in remote or rural areas?
  • What measures are required to encourage interoperability between the Wi-Fi networks of different service providers, both within the country and internationally?
  • What measures are required to encourage interoperability between cellular and Wi-Fi networks?
  • Apart from frequency bands already recommended by TRAI to DoT, are there additional bands that need to be de-licensed in order to expedite the penetration of broadband using Wi-Fi technology?
  • Please provide international examples, if any, in support of your answer.
  • Are there any challenges being faced in the log-in/authentication procedure for access to Wi-Fi hotspots? In what ways can the process be simplified to provide frictionless access to public Wi-Fi hotspots, for domestic users as well as foreign tourists?
  • Are there any challenges being faced in making payments for access to Wi-Fi hotspots? Please elaborate and suggest a payment arrangement that will offer frictionless and secured payment for access to Wi-Fi services.
  • Is there a need to adopt a hub-based model along the lines suggested by the WBA where a central third-party authentication, authorisation and accounting (AAA) hub will facilitate interconnection, authentication and payments? Who should own and control the hub? Should the hub operator be subject to any regulations to ensure service standards, data protection, etc.?
  • Is there a need for ISPs/the proposed hub operator to adopt the unified payment interface (UPI) or other similar payment platforms for easy subscription of Wi-Fi access? Who should own and control such payment platforms? Please give full details in support of your answer.
  • Is it feasible to have an architecture wherein a common grid can be created through which any small entity can become a data service provider and able to share its available data to any consumer or user?
  • What regulatory/licensing measures are required to develop such architecture? Is this a right time to allow such reselling of data to ensure affordable data tariff to public, ensure ubiquitous presence of Wi-Fi networks and allow innovation in the market?
  • What measures are required to promote hosting of data of community interests at the local level to reduce cost of data to the consumers?
  • Any other issues related to the matter of consultation.