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Trai moots public Wi-Fi access grid, gives report to telecom ministry

New Delhi: Telecom regulator Trai on Thursday mooted an ambitious model of a public Wi-Fi grid that aims to slash internet access cost by 90 per cent, and push broadband proliferation in India.
Ruing that India significantly trails other nations in providing access to broadband, especially in rural areas, Trai has underscored the need for ushering a new set of small players for Wi-Fi service provisioning.
The grid or the mesh conceptualised by Trai (and forwarded to Department of Telecom for further consideration) entails multiple providers coming together on one platform to address aspects like access, services, payment, and authentication.
"Broadband proliferation across the country is an important pillar of Digital India. Wi-Fi is the cheapest option, given low cost of equipment and free spectrum," Trai Chairman RS Sharma told reporters.
Trai's concept involves Public Data Office Providers (PDOs) - much like PCOs of yesteryears that galvanised connectivity. The PDOs will be companies, or even small merchants, interested in providing Wi-Fi hotspots to public using either free or paid model.
The Trai chairman on Thursday presented a report on 'public Wi-Fi open pilot project' to Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha, outlining the success of the first phase of trials it had conduced.
"The public Wi-Fi pilot outcome aims to offer a seamless experience to end users...This will allow small entrepreneurs such as tea shops, grocery shops etc. to set up and maintain access points. Whereas, device manufacturers, payment companies, Internet Service Providers/Telcos and consumer internet companies can provide the remaining pieces to set up PDOs," Trai said in the report.
It has now suggested moving ahead from the pilot to the next phase, which will involve working with the participants of the pilot in Delhi and Bengaluru, and creation of a testing and certification framework.
According to Trai ( Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), the products available for consumption should begin from 'sachet sized', that is, low denomination, as low as Rs 2.
Trai, in its report, said users should be able to easily discover the networks, do one-click authentication and payment and connect their devices in Wi-Fi hotspots. "The experience for a small entrepreneurs to purchase, self register, set up a PDO must be simple, low touch and maintenance free," it said.
The regulator had earlier come out with recommendations on proliferation of broadband through public Wi-Fi networks that were sent to Telecom Department on March 9, 2017.
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