Pub­lic Wi-Fi Sug­ges­tions: DoT May Seek Trai Re­think

Govt can’t al­low reg­is­tra­tion for selling data via Wi-Fi hotspots as per the Tele­graph Act, say of­fi­cials

The Economic Times - - Companies & Economy - Gul­veen.Au­lakh@ times­group.com

New Delhi: The Depart­ment of Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions is likely to ask the sec­tor reg­u­la­tor to re­con­sider its rec­om­men­da­tion on pub­lic wi-fi net­works, point­ing out pri­vate en­ti­ties offering the ser­vice though reg­is­tra­tion alone would not be pos­si­ble, and that it should sug­gest al­ter­na­tives.

DoT of­fi­cials said the gov­ern­ment will not be able to al­low reg­is­tra­tion for selling data through pub­lic Wi-Fi hotspots, be­cause ex­ist­ing rules man­date such en­ti­ties to take li­cences from the gov­ern­ment. “Trai (Tele­com Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity of In­dia) has sug­gested that pub­lic data of­fice (PDO) ag­gre­ga­tor may of­fer ser­vices through reg­is­tra­tion, but ac­cord­ing to the Tele­graph Act, it is clear that the process should be through giv­ing li­cences,” a se­nior of­fi­cial said.

An­other of­fi­cial said, “It is not a pub­lic call of­fice (PCO), or a cy­ber café, so the PDO ag­gre­ga­tor will ser- ve as a cus­tomer ser­vice on a per­ma­nent ba­sis, giv­ing wi-fi as a re-seller. Prima fa­cie, it (the rec­om­men­da­tions) will go back to Trai with DoT’s views.” The reg­u­la­tor may be asked to pro­vide al­ter­na­tive sug­ges­tions, the of­fi­cial added.

If the DoT sends the sug­ges­tion back to Trai for re­con­sid­er­a­tion, the reg­u­la­tor will have 15 days to re­ply to it, af­ter which the DoT will send it to the Tele­com Com­mis­sion – the high­est de­ci­sion-making body in the DoT – which will take the fi­nal call.

Trai has al­ready in­vited all com­pa­nies, app providers and hard­ware or soft­ware providers, for set­ting up a pi­lot project of pub­lic wi-fi hotspots — which it calls PDOs — which will al­low users to ac­cess pay-as-you-go ’sa­chet-sized’ wi-fi fa­cil­i­ties priced be­tween .₹ 2 and .₹ 20.

The in­vi­ta­tion was part of the rec­om­men­da­tions is­sued by the reg­u­la­tor in March this year, to a con­sul­ta­tion pa­per is­sued in July last year. The reg­u­la­tor said last month that it had re­ceived huge in­ter­est for the ini- tia­tive, the broad ob­jec­tive of which is to en­able con­sumers to use data for last-mile con­nec­tiv­ity through mul­ti­ple hotspots across the coun­try.

Trai sub­se­quently is­sued the ar­chi­tec­tural frame­work for al­low­ing users to do one-time en­rol­ment into the ser­vice through KYC and mo­bile one-time pass­word and get in­ter­net ac­cess.

The frame­work will also fa­cil­i­tate the pi­lot, which will also test out in­te­grated pay­ment meth­ods such as coupons - pur­chased us­ing cash by users or gifted to users – credit or debit cards, net bank­ing, e-wal­lets, and uni­fied pay­ments in­ter­face. The learn­ings would help in iden­ti­fy­ing the pos­i­tives and prob­lem ar­eas be­fore na­tional pro­lif­er­a­tion, the reg­u­la­tor had said.

The reg­u­la­tor also en­vi­sions that the hot­pots will be able to off­load data pres­sure from ex­ist­ing tele­com net­works, given that only lim­ited num­ber of tow­ers or routers can be added at ev­ery lo­cal­ity, enough to sup­port the grow­ing data us­age ow­ing to low cost tar­iffs.

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