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TRAI Will Launch Consultation Paper for Public WiFi, the Next Battleground of Telcos

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Free Public Wifi Hotspot

TRAI is expected to soon announce a new consultation paper for public WiFi across the country. Experts are claiming that public WiFi is the new battleground for telecom players; and TRAI wants to clearly define the rules before any conflict arises.

Among other suggestions, a special, dedicated ‘payment gateway’ has been proposed for easing the process to make payments related with usage of WiFi.

RS Sharma, Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, said, “We will soon float the consultation which will try to find ways in which both the user of public Wi-Fi and providers are able to benefit,”

The Real Need for Consultation Paper

In order to ease the load and pressure on cellular network, various telecom players are attempting to install WiFi hotspots across their networks. For instance, we had reported last year about Airtel’s Hangouts app, which would provide paid access to Airtel’s 3G and 4G network and has been designed to decongest their cellular network.

Similarly, BSE and Tata DoCoMo collaborated to launch WiFi in Mumbai last year.

Vodafone, Reliance Comm. and Reliance Jio have also announced plans to launch such public WiFi all over India; and this has actually prompted TRAI to come-up with a regulation for this service.

How Will Public WiFi Work?

As per TRAI Chief, they want transparency and efficiency in providing WiFi on public networks and the consultation paper shall attempt to enforce the same. For example, the end user shouldn’t be confused about free and paid service.

A special payment gateway would be created for WiFi service providers, and a payment mechanism would be introduced.

Explaining the procedure, he said, “Once a user logs into a public Wi-Fi, the provider should make it clear that this is the per-megabyte payment charge or the price for using the Wi-Fi for a time period, say half an hour, at the end of which the provider should also inform the user the charge for usage,”

TRAI is also creating a blueprint to implement wide-scale WiFi access points across the nation, and for this purpose, help from entrepreneurs is being expected. The consultation paper shall have provision and incentives for tech entrepreneurs who wish to execute this WiFi distribution plan.

Traditionally, telecom players had been against such ‘alternative’ sources of providing Internet access, because it will mean direct erosion of their profits. But it seems that Digital India campaign is actually encouraging them to observe things with a different light, and hopefully the consultation paper would be the foundation stone of implementing massive network of WiFi access across the country.

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