To give internet penetration in rural areas a boost, Trai wants Wi-Fi hotspots, sharing of infrastructure, eKYC-cleared IDs

By: | Updated: March 10, 2017 4:38 AM

“This will encourage village-level entrepreneurship and provide strong employment opportunities,” Trai noted.

According to research studies, India had a little over 31,500 Wi-FI hotspots in 2016 whereas developed countries like France, US and UK, have 13 million, 9.8 million and 5.6 million hotspots, respectively.

In a bid to increase internet penetration across the country, especially in rural areas, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Thursday came out with a slew of recommendations, including setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots, reducing import duty on Wi-Fi equipment, infrastructure sharing and authentication of the users through eKYC process. The regulator in its consultation paper floated last year on the proliferation of broadband through public Wi-Fi sought to explore the regulatory and commercial constraints, which have been hindering the growth of Wi-Fi hotspots in the country.

Trai said through its consultations with various stakeholders, it has discovered that the cost of providing internet can be as economical as 2 paise per MB through a Wi-Fi network compared to around 23 paise per MB using mobile network. On setting up hotspots, it said: “A new framework should be put in place for setting up of Public Data Offices (PDOs). Under this framework, PDOs in agreement with Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs), should be allowed to provide public Wi-Fi services. This will not only increase the number of public hotspots but also make Internet service more affordable in the country”.

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According to research studies, India had a little over 31,500 Wi-FI hotspots in 2016 whereas developed countries like France, US and UK, have 13 million, 9.8 million and 5.6 million hotspots, respectively. It also suggested that these PDOAs should be allowed to provide public Wi-Fi services without obtaining any licence, but should be subject to DoT prescribed registration requirements, including ensuring that e-KYC, authentication and recordkeeping (of customers, devices and PDOAs enlisted with the PDOs). “This will encourage village-level entrepreneurship and provide strong employment opportunities,” Trai noted.

Trai said the Department of Telecom can amend the terms of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence to allow for sharing of active infrastructure, in line with the Unified Licence (UL) as well as also clarify on all licence categories, that sharing of infrastructure related to Wi-Fi router, access point, backhaul, etc is allowed. The regulator also advised that the authentication through OTP (over the top) for accessing internet every time should be done away with.

It suggested that authentication can be done using eKYC, e-Electronic Customer Application Form (eCAF) and other electronic modes. Besides, after consultation with the security agencies, DoT can consider authentication via Media Access Control ID of the device or through a mobile APP that stores eKYC data of the subscriber.

Trai said Wi-Fi hotspots will help in faster penetration of internet, especially in the rural areas, where the practice of using mobile internet still has to catch up. On bringing down the import duty on Wi-Fi devices, the regulator advised: “The import duty applicable upon Wi-Fi access point equipment be revisited in coordination with the ministry of commerce. This will reduce cost of providing Wi-Fi service in the country leading to proliferation of broadband services”.

Based on the consultation with the stakeholders, Trai estimated that a Wi-Fi network of 20 hotspots designed for a tier-II city catering to around 40,000 subscribers and 10,000 concurrent users is estimated to cost less than 2 paise per MB. It also said consumers on an average pay around 23 paise per MB for data usage on 2G/3G/4G mobile networks, which indicates that the tariff for data can come down by as much as 1/10th in Wi-Fi compared to mobile data.

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