Trai moots public Wi-Fi hotspots to cut data costs by up to 90%
14 July 2016
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has sought public views on allowing non-telecom companies to participate in setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots, as low-cost Wi-Fi access infrastructure could slash internet rates by up to 90 per cent, while offering faster speeds.
The regulator has sought public views on various issues, including regulatory hurdles, licensing restrictions, business models, interoperability between Wi-Fi networks and delicensing of more mobile airwaves.
In a consultation paper released on Wednesday, Trai said, '''public Wi-Fi network' 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 paper on Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks.
Trai said the issues include policy measures 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, authorisation and accounting hub will facilitate interconnection, authentication and payments and who should own and control such hub.
The regulator said that it is estimated that cost per MB in Wi-Fi network could be less than 2 paise per MB while consumers on an average are paying around 23 paise per MB for the data usage in the cellular network like 2G, 3G and 4G.
"This shows that the consumer tariff 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 also it will make data affordable to consumers," Trai said.
Trai has specifically sought comments on the following issues:
- 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 which 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 login/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 which will offer frictionless and secured payment for the access of 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 AAA (Authentication, Authorization and Accounting) 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 Network and allow innovation in the market?
- What measures are required to promote hosting of data of community interest at local level to reduce cost of data to the consumers?
- Any other issue related to the matter of consultation.
The regulator said that the present status of Wi-Fi hotspots in India is not encouraging. For a country representing a sixth of the world population, the 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.
At present, there are only 31,518 with 13,967 installed in cafes, Trai said.