TRAI recommends PDO-driven Wi-Fi project after pilot

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has submitted its recommendations to DoT on public Wi-Fi revealing the details of its pilots on Public Data Offices (PDOs) that did not receive good demand.

TRAI in a statement said the proposed PDOs can slash internet access cost by 90 percent, and push broadband proliferation in India.

The fact is that TRAI did not receive good response for the pilot project though it was an ambitious project for TRAI chairman RS Sharma.

TRAI said the success of the broadband pilot can be gauged from the fact that 96.3 percent of the persons found the system user friendly. 3.7 percent of the persons believed that there is still a scope of improvement.
PDO driven Wi-Fi in India
US-based social media network Facebook via its rural broadband partner AirJaldi Networks participated in the pilot. AirJaldi deployed 2 of its access points in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh and one in its branch office in Delhi. AirJaldi Networks with its perseverance and technical assistance from TRAI, managed to achieve WANI compliance in a short time.

CSC-eGovernance Services India was the other player that entered into the later phase of the pilot. CSC hotspot network spreads across the whole nation, with the count of approximately 70,000 access points. CSC participated in the pilot with two of its access points installed at its Okhla Office.

No. of access points installed

Omnia Information: 157
WiFi Dabba: 430
Cotyledon Technologies: 3
Febler Technologies: 2
Xi-Fi Networks: 2
Airjaldi Networks: 3
OneHop Network: 2
CSC – e Governance Services: 2

TRAI says there is a need for alternative business models to support the growth of Wi-Fi in India. Global Internet traffic is anticipated to increase by about 3 times to 3.3 ZB per year by 2021 from 1.2 ZB per year in 2016. Wi-Fi and mobile devices will account for 63 percent of IP Traffic in 2021 up from 51 percent in 2016.

As per Cisco report, the number of public Wi-Fi hotspots is set to increase from 94 million in 2016 to 541.6 million in 2021. The density of WiFi hotspots will also increase from 1 hotspot for 150 people to 1 hotspot for 20 people.

TRAI recommendations

DoT may amend the terms of the ISP license to allow for sharing of active infrastructure, in line with the Unified License (UL). Sharing of infrastructure related to Wi-Fi equipment such as Wi-Fi router, Access point, and backhaul should be allowed.

DoT may re-visit the TRAI’s recommendations and consider de-licensing spectrum in the 5.725 – 5.825 GHz spectrum band for outdoor usage, and expedite decision on allocating E-band (71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz) and V-band (57-64 GHz) to service providers.

The import duty on Wi-Fi access point equipment should be revised 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.

Public Data Offices (PDOs) in agreement with Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) should be allowed to provide public Wi-Fi services. This will increase number of public hotspots but also make internet service more affordable in the country.

PDOAs may be allowed to provide public Wi-Fi services without obtaining specific license for the purpose. They would be subject to registration requirements prescribed by the DoT which will include obligations to ensure that e-KYC, authentication and record-keeping requirements for customers, devices and PDOs enlisted with the PDOAs are fulfilled by the PDOAs. This will encourage village level entrepreneurship and provide strong employment opportunities, especially in rural areas.

“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.

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.