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Trai explores public Wi-Fi models, expects 90% cut in data cost

Telecom regulator Trai on Wednesday sought public views on allowing non-telecom companies to participate in setting up public wifi hotspots, and said 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 by August 10 on slew of issues including regulatory hurdles, licensing restrictions, business models, inter operability between wifi networks and licensing of more mobile airwaves.

In this paper, ‘public Wi-Fi networks’ 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.

Other issues that would be deliberated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India include policy measures to encourage 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, Authorization 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.

The regulator said that status of Wi-Fi hotspots in India is not encouraging as while the country represents one-sixth of the world population but its 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

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