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Unlicensed entities providing Wi-Fi services will only benefit Telcos: TRAI chief


Indian government ambitious public Wi-Fi plan via Public Data Offices (PDOs) and PDO aggregators (PDOA) will only bring additional business to telecom firms, said TRAI chairman RS Sharma.

Speaking for the first time on the subject, which has turned into a controversy, Sharma reasoned that unlicensed or registered companies will resell carriers’ data only.

“There are many registered entities already operating in telecom space. For example, the infrastructure providers… they don’t have any license but only registrations. Interestingly, if one goes to a hotel or a coffee shop, the internet is provided. They don’t have a license,” Sharma was quoted as saying by ET.

Demanding reason for opposing form telcos, he said that TRAI has already prepared a registration framework. It is, in fact, benefitting telecom service providers and internet service providers.

A fortnight ago, in a letter written to Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), COAI had complained that the Telecom Regulatory of India (TRAI) proposal to set up PDOs repelling the licence system will create non-level playing field and prove detrimental to harm huge investment made by leading telcos in the country.

It will lead to revenue losses for licensed operators and to the central exchequer, which would be deprived of licence fee, spectrum usage charge or any upfront payment for airwaves, COAI added.

As per the Telegraph Act, the telecom services can only be provided by the central government or an entity authorised or licensed by the central government.

However, DoT denied the violation of the abovementioned Act and said that the PDOs while registering themselves will need to accept and adhere to the licence conditions. This will serve as the parameter conforming to the licence requirements for the telecom services deployment.

Last year, TRAI said PDOs may be allowed to provide public WiFi services without any specific licence for the purpose.

The Wi-Fi expansion plan is worth Rs 10,000 crore. The DoT, which has commenced work on the project aims to make the Internet accessible to every citizen for as low as Rs 2. It is expected to create village-level entrepreneurship and employment opportunities through a new category of service providers—PDO aggregators (PDOA), where the government will partner with small businesses and individuals.

The project primarily aims to increase the rapid use of Wi-Fi by offering cheap internet connectivity to people in tier-2 and tier-3 towns.

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