Terming the availability and affordability of broadband as a “prerequisite” for growth of digital transactions, regulator TRAI today said it will finalise in 20-25 days its views on ‘public wifi networks’. Public wifi networks would offer data connectivity at just 10 per cent of the prevailing data rates.
“We will give our recommendations in 20-25 days. The issue of wifi proliferation is an important one. The basic objective of Digital India is to encourage digital transactions of all kinds ... it is therefore important for people to have broadband availability and affordability,” TRAI Chairman R S Sharma said on sidelines of an open house on ‘Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks’.
He said that broadband access needs to be ubiquitous, reliable and robust.
“These characteristics can be delivered through wifi networks and therefore we are trying to think of ways to bring about seamless grid of wifi network,” Sharma said.
He said TRAI’s consultation paper does not deal with free wifi services, but rather costs that are just 10 per cent of the prevailing costs.
“Free wifi would not be sustainable over a long time. The wifi networks we are talking about will not be free but they will be very affordable. Compared to the data costs right now, it will be just 10 per cent...So, people will be able to take advantage of that,” he said.
In its consultation paper floated in July last year, TRAI had said that it is estimated that cost per MB in Wi-Fi Network could be less than 2 paise per MB while consumers on an average are paying around 23 paise per MB for the data usage in the cellular network like 2G, 3G and 4G.
The broadband crunch with regard to wired infrastructure will also be addressed through proliferation of community wifi hotspots.
“It is not just in tune with the wave of digitisation but also a requirement and a necessity, as our country moves forward in the digital connectivity. It is an absolute pre-requisite for Digital India,” he said.
When asked by when will the public wifi hotspots become a reality in India, Sharma said the regulator’s mandate is to provide recommendations and framework.
“Implementation is not our mandate. So, we will create such conditions or try to give recommendations that will ensure that these proliferate,” he added.
Digital payment channels have seen massive uptake and rise in transactions after demonetisation was announced on November 8.
According to the government data, UPI transactions –which allow users to transfer funds from one bank account to another using a smartphone –grew 1,342 per cent, from 3,721 such transactions a day on November 8 to 53,648 on December 25. In value terms, it grew 647 per cent, from Rs 1.93 crore a day to Rs 14 crore, during the same period.
DoT to meet telecom operators again for status check on call drops
The Department of Telecom will meet telecom operators once again this quarter for a status check on call drops, which it says, has improved but still not satisfactory.
"The call drop situation has shown improvement with additional spectrum availability, and the private sector making more investments in technology and towers... but it is not satisfactory because call drops are happening," Telecom Secretary, JS Deepak said.
DoT had held discussions with telecom operators last year on the consumer-centric issue of call drops and quality of service. Following this, telecom operators installed more than 1,30,000 additional Base Transceiver Stations or BTSs (mobile towers) across the country during June-October 2016 period and further committed to install more than 1,50,000 additional BTSs across the country by March 2017.
In December, in a bid to tackle the call drop issue, government launched an Integrated Voice Response System or IVRS, at multiple locations including Delhi and Mumbai to obtain direct feedback from subscribers on call quality, and to enable operators to take corrective steps in the problem areas. Asked if DoT will meet telcos again for a status check on the overall call drop situation, Deepak said that the Department has been meeting the telcos every quarter and there will be another one on the issue before March-end, although the date has not been finalised.
"It is work in progress. While 2.50 lakh BTSs are being put and adequate spectrum is being made available, still there are dark spots...these are issues that the industry is trying to address through better use of technology and optimisation of network. I am sure that by March, the situation will see further improvement," he said.