The Broadband India Forum (BIF) on Sunday threw its weight behind regulator Trai’s recommendations on public wi-fi, saying its implementation will help achieve the government’s ‘Broadband for All’ and ‘Digital India’ objectives and aid business and job creation.
In a statement, BIF rued that in the period of four years that Trai’s recommendations “remained unactioned”, the country could have suffered a “large and irretrievable loss”.
BIF President T V Ramachandran said Trai’s recommendations on public wi-fi will encourage village level entrepreneurship and provide large employment opportunities at local level, especially in rural areas, thus propelling socio-economic development and inclusion, as well as rural digital connectivity.
Last week, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had contested the Department of Telecom’s views that public data office aggregators (PDOAs) which had been proposed by it, should operate under licence norms applicable for internet providers (ISPs) and virtual network operators (VNOs).
“Asking PDOAs to operate under Unified Licence (VNO-ISP), which is designed to regulate integrated ISPs, would defeat the whole purpose of this exercise, and kill the innovation at initial stage itself…the authority does not agree with the DoT proposal of granting UL (VNO-ISP) license to PDOA,” Trai said.
The regulator has said that registrations for PDOA, app provider and Central Registry Agency — all of which form crucial elements of its blueprint for proliferation of broadband through public wi-fi networks — should have pan-India operations permission.
“Further, for pan India operations a one-time registration fee of Rs 10,000 for app provider and PDOA is recommended,” Trai said responding to the views received from the Department of Telecom (DoT) on its past recommendations on public wi-fi networks.
Trai has argued that regulating PDOAs through the existing unified licence or VNO licence norms would not be feasible as aggregators would not be able to comply with many terms and conditions of such licence.
Under the ‘unbundled and distributed model’ mooted by Trai for proliferation of broadband through public wi-fi networks, a PDO (interested companies, even small shop owners) can establish and maintain wi-fi hotspots and delivery of broadband services.
The PDO would be supported by PDO aggregator and app provider in performing other functions. A PDOA would aggregate multiple wi-fi hotspots being operated by individual PDOs and authorise authenticated subscribers to use them for accessing broadband services.
BIF stated that in the interregnum of four years that Trai’s public wi-fi recommendations remained unactioned, the country “could well have suffered a large and irretrievable loss”.
“If these TRAI recommendations had been accepted back then, the common man, the economy and the nation as a whole would have reaped rich and wondrous benefits…if we go by World Bank’s finding in 2009, that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration leads to a 1.38 per cent increase in GDP growth for low income countries (like India); or as shown again by ICRIER in 2017, that a 10 per cent increase in total internet traffic in India leads to… 3.3 per cent increase in GDP,” it said.
BIF said that the telecom regulator’s recommendation on public wi-fi will result in explosive growth in business and employment opportunities for small local or village-level entrepreneurs, kirana stores, tea-shops and the likes, besides providing affordable broadband to all.
The think-tank and policy forum for digital communications noted that India’s broadband penetration is currently less than 50 per cent if one takes into account unique subscribers, although there are about 686 million total broadband connections, majority of whom are in the urban areas and having multiple SIMs.
The percentage of users who access broadband using public wi-fi hotspots are minimal due to lack of availability of the same, BIF said. PTI MBI