TRAI pilots public Wi-Fi system akin to UPI, to create 500K hotspots by December


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been running pilots for Wi-Fi hot spots. The regulatory body is planning to develop public Wi-Fi hot spots framework similar to the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

A report based on the outcome of the pilots will be made and submitted to the department of telecommunications (DoT) by March end, Trai chairman RS Sharma was quoted saying in Mint report.

The apex telecom body is working to ensure that the Wi-Fi hot spots can be provided in a seamless manner. The team is prescribing interoperable standards to authenticate the user, payment, and operations, Sharma added.

At present, there are 38 000 Wi-Fi hot spots in the country. DoT plans to deploy 500,000 Wi-Fi hot spots by December across the country. The pilots were run in Noida and Bengaluru.

The Wi-Fi framework will be similar to what UPI is for payment ecosystem. UPI was started in 2016, as a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile app (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing and merchant payments under one hood.

Earlier in July 2016, TRAI had first floated a consultation paper on ‘Proliferation of Broadband Through Public Wi-Fi Networks’, to invite public comments. Then it sent recommendations to DoT. TRAI had at that time recommended a new framework to set up public data offices (PDOs), similar to public call offices (PCOs), for providing public Wi-Fi hot spots.

In July 207, the regulator issued a draft design of public Wi-Fi network project under which any entity with a valid permanent account number (PAN) would be allowed to set up PDOs.

TRAI wants prices to be available to the customers in a small sachet of Rs 2 to Rs 20 per session.The regulator also wants the Public Wi-Fi hotspots to store community interest data locally, and allow access to it through at negligible costs.

The vision of this initiative is to establish an Open Architecture based Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (WANI). To allow any entity (company, proprietorship, societies, non-profits, etc) to be easily able to set up a paid public Wi-Fi access point.

Besides in Nov 2017, the government kicked off the second leg of its flagship rural connectivity project, BharatNet to digitally connect rural and remote areas in the country by March 2019.

Under the project, it has proposed a subsidy of Rs 3,600 crore to private telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio through viability gap funding, for setting up Wi-Fi in rural areas. Under second phase 1,50,000 gram panchayats would be connected with optic fiber cable (OFC).

Recently, Indian Internet market has undergone phenomenal growth, due to increased availability of technologies like broadband, smartphones, tablets, and high-speed mobile data.

The Internet users in India is expected to reach 500 million by June this year, said the ‘Internet in India 2017’ report published by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB.

However, Internet penetration in urban India was 64.84 per cent as compared to 20.26 per cent in rural parts of the country.

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