PM-WANI: Public Wi-Fi network may not have any takers

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December 10, 2020 5:15 AM

The proposal is based on a March 2017 recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India when data came expensive at around Rs 50/GB.

Across sectors, only those mergers and acquisitions beyond certain thresholds are required to get clearance from CCI.

At a time when data prices are at rock bottom rates of around Rs 5/GB and there are over 700 million internet subscribers, the Union Cabinet has approved setting up of public Wi-Fi networks through public data offices that will not involve any licence, fee or registration. The public Wi-Fi Access Network Interface will be known as PM-WANI, and is aimed at spreading Wi-Fi in the country. However, it has come too late in the day and it is doubtful whether there would be many takers for it.

The proposal is based on a March 2017 recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India when data came expensive at around Rs 50/GB. Had the government set up public Wi-Fi access points then, it would have made sense.

The basic model is that small shop owners can become re-sellers by buying bulk data from licensed telecom operators and selling it to subscribers who do not have Wi-Fi access. Proponents of this network in the government say that even now it makes sense as it would be like a sachet model where people not having regular connections can buy data for limited time period as per their usage. Further, it can be useful in areas where connectivity of some licensed operator is weak.

“No licence, no registration and no fee would be applicable for the PDOs, which could be small shops or even common service centres,” telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

As part of the framework, the PDO will establish, maintain and operate only WANI-compliant Wi-Fi access points and deliver broadband services to subscribers. The PDOA will be an aggregator of PDOs and perform the functions relating to authorisation and accounting. The app provider will develop an app to register users and discover WANI compliant Wi-Fi hotspots in the nearby area and display the same within the app for accessing the internet service and there will be a central registry, which will maintain the details of app providers, PDOAs and PDOs. To begin with, the central registry will be maintained by C-DoT.

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