NEW DELHI: Telecom regulator Trai plans to unshackle Wi-Fi deployment across the country by allowing individuals, communities, small-time entrepreneurs and content and application providers to offer affordable and high-speed internet to the public.

A booster to Wi-Fi deployment, which is yet to spread in a large way in India, has the potential to provide internet access at affordable costs, while supplementing existing telecom networks, feels Trai, which will soon make recommendations on the issue. “We see mass-scale Wi-Fi deployment as a means to democratise the penetration of affordable good-speed internet across urban cities and rural areas,” top officials at Trai told TOI.

The plan is to provide internet for 2 paise per MB against the existing rates of around 10 paise in the mobile telecom market. The regulator also feels that the Wi-Fi network can help take the load off from choked telecom operators, who are battling poor call quality and slow broadband speeds.

“The recommendations will be sent to the telecom ministry very soon for necessary changes in the licensing and other rules,” one source said..

Trai feels that inter-operability of internet access — where it can move seamlessly from mobile telecom networks to various Wi-Fi set-ups — will be a key to success of the plan.

“The idea is to ensure that a consumer can easily move from his mobile network to low-cost public Wi-Fi hotpots without having to go through multiple authentication issues. New intermediaries to provide Wi-Fi will help have higher touch-points for internet that can run into millions,” a source said.

Trai had floated a consultation paper on spreading reach of Wi-Fi in July last year, and had followed it up with another consultation paper that spoke about relevance of inter-operable systems in boosting proliferation of internet.

The regulator is looking at formation of policies and creation of an infrastructure that give a big push in establishing a Wi-Fi grid, covering major towns, cities and rural areas. “Wi-Fi technology holds much promise for a country like India which wants to achieve universal access to information and communication technologies for its population, both in densely-populated urban areas as well as remote rural areas, where the telephone or cable infrastructure are not yet fully deployed,” Trai had said.
An official said costs of setting up Wi-Fi infrastructure are lower when compared to mobile broadband networks like 2G, 3G and 4G as the technology utilizes unlicensed spectrum and equipment is cheaper and more readily available. Also, its maintenance and operational costs are significantly lower.

Trai maintained that Wi-Fi technology and hotspots are yet to pick up in India when compared to other countries, and pointed out that they are mostly used by people when provided free. “Globally, number of Wi-Fi hotspots has increased 568% from 2013 to 2016 compared to 12% (growth) in India,” the regulator said.

“For India to reach a goal of one hotspot for every 150 people (current global average), 8 lakh additional hotspots will have to be installed,” Trai said. in order to ensure that internet access is delivered through Wi-Fi hotspots in a consistent and reliable manner, the network should be able to sustain itself through appropriate monetization techniques. Trai said internet-service providers may enter into deals among themselves for sharing public Wi-Fi on rental revenue share basis.

Source: ET

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