The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will soon begin consultations to explore a sustainable model for wi-fi in public places, the body’s chairman R S Sharma told The Indian Express in an exclusive interview
The public wi-fi model has hitherto been explored and worked into by both the government and private sector players but remained largely unsuccessful.
In 2014, the Department of Telecom (DoT) was working on a mechanism to provide wi-fi hot spots in cities with population of over 10 lakh and in tourist centres.
It held several meetings with telecom operators for the scheme but could not decide if the service was to be kept free or chargeable.
The scheme was part of the government’s flagship Digital India programme, which has been approved by the government.
“What we want is that user should be able to move from one place to another and seamlessly get connected, and without much hassles he should be connected.
This is the architecture that we’re looking at — interoperability between wi-fi providers, seamless payment methods. These are some of the aspects of how you can create a structure which enables the wi-fi in public places,” Sharma said.
“These are some of the aspects of how you can create a structure which enables the wi-fi in public places,” he added.
Both private and public sector companies such as Google, RailTel MTS, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Tata TeleServices Ltd, etc have brought out various models for providing wi-fi at public places such as railway stations, airports, coffee-shops, etc.
The bulk of free wi-fi hotspots in India are in urban centres such coffee shops, which help them attract customers, or are sponsored by advertisers.
According to latest available information, state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has installed 2,505 wi-fi hotspots across the country until March.
BSNL is expected to provide these facilities with a minimum speed of 2 Mbps at every hotspot and will also extended the facility to more locations.
Whether free wireless internet services in India are sustainable enough is a question that Trai will aim to explore during its consultation process, Sharma said.
“(The public wi-fi maybe) not necessarily free, because free may not be sustainable in the long run. So, if you want to have a really ubiquitous wi-fi availability, then it has to be based on some sustainable business model, which we are going to explore,” he said.