Trai's proposal on public wi-fi hot spots awaiting DoT approval

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai’s) proposal for allowing data resale, a move that will help in proliferating public wi-fi hot spots, has been pending with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for over a year.

Trai had on March 9 last year said public wi-fi would make broadband services available at low cost.

It had said small entrepreneurs or shop-owners could work as public data offices (PDOs) to offer wi-fi service and for that data resale should be allowed.

“The Authority is well aware of the fact that introduction of PDO along with an aggregator would entail resale of data services as is already allowed in the case of a cyber café model. Further, the Authority is of the view that this is the best way to achieve proliferation of wi-fi systems in the country,” Trai had said in the recommendations. 

Trai had said such a model would address the shortcomings of that of cyber cafes, and address concerns relating to public wi-fi such as authentication, payments and authorisation.  

Currently, data resale is not allowed and telecom operators or internet service providers, in partnership with technology companies, run most wi-fi hot spots. 

There are about 35,000 wi-fi hot spots in the country and most of them are located at airports, hotels, malls, etc. Various outlets also offer complementary access to wi-fi, like Café Coffee Day or other retail outlets. The model Trai proposed will allow small shop-owners, or vendors, or individuals to resell their data and offer it through wi-fi. 

The model will be of great help in bridging the digital divide in rural areas where broadband penetration is very low. 

Trai Chairman RS Sharma on Thursday submitted a report on a pilot project on public wi-fi spots undertaken by the regulator at several locations to Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha. 

Trai had taken the DoT’s approval to do the project because it required data resale. “The success of the pilot can be gauged from the fact that 96.3 per cent of the persons found the system user friendly. 3.7 per cent of the persons believed that there is still a scope of improvement,” Trai said in the report. Trai added there had been increasing demand from individuals and organisations that high-speed uninterrupted data service should be available at an affordable rate. Owing to increased mobile data overload, meeting users’ demands is often compromised on account of unwanted network latency and congestion.

A widespread network of public wi-fi hot spots can improve this situation as a complementary service. “Public wi-fi services can enable mobile data to be dynamically offloaded/shared to ensure continuous connectivity along with desired quality of service (QoS),” Trai said.

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