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Telecom regulator Trai on Friday stressed on the need to expand Wifi hotspots in the country, and said acceptance of its proposals on ‘Wifi access network interface’ could provide fillip to such connectivity.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman R S Sharma said that telecom operators, at times, feel that having Wifi hotspots will impact sale of data through wireless, which is a “short-term thinking”.

The total number of Wifi hotspots in the country is less than 1,00,000, while in smaller markets like France the number of Wifi hotspots are close to 1.8 million.

“We were talking that we will end up having large number of Wifi hotspots, hundreds of millions of Wifi hotspots…we have not been able to do it.

“Somehow or the other the telecom service providers feel that if I have Wifi hotspots then my sale of data through the wireless will go down, but that is a very short-term thinking in my view and what we need to do is to proliferate wifi as much as possible,” Sharma said.

He was speaking in a webinar on the ‘role of Wifi in broadband proliferation’ organised by Broadband India Forum (BIF). Sharma said one of the most important use cases of 5G in India will be to provide fixed wireless access.

Asked when Trai could be expected to start 6 GHz spectrum consultation process, Sharma said that work on that would start once there is reference from the telecom department on the same.

“As of now we don’t have any reference from Department of Telecom on the subject.

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“Typically on spectrum question…while we have the mandate to, and can start suo moto consultation on any of the issues… typically on spectrum questions, their reserve prices and other kinds of issue… we get references from DoT. My short answer is we will start the consultation when we get the reference from DoT,” he said.

Speaking at the webinar, US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai said that during his visit to India in February, he had a discussion with DoT secretary around 6 GHz radiowaves.

“During my visit to India in February, I had a good discussion with Secretary (Anshu) Prakash about our 6 GHz efforts, so I know that India is interested in exploring the possibilities of unlicensed use in this band,” Pai said in the online the event.

The internet has become the “indispensable platform” for innovation, job creation, and free expression, Pai said.

Promoting the availability of Wifi and advances in this technology are key pieces of any strategy to provide connectivity for all, he added.

“Wifi will be even more important in the years to come. By one estimate, the economic value created by Wifi in the United States is projected to double by 2023—reaching nearly USD 1 trillion,” Pai said while outlining measures taken by the US regulator to harness the power of Wifi for bridging digital divide.

Sharma said that in contrast to other countries, in India only seven per cent data rides on fixed access, while 93 per cent comes from wireless.

“We have huge data coming on wireless and therefore (it) puts load on the spectrum in some sense, the quality of service gets affected,” he said.

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While tech adoption takes place fast in India, it is the frugal, interoperaple and scalable technologies that work the best and succeed in this market.

“We gave proposal for Wifi access network interface and we gave this proposal after huge consultation and pilot…,” he said urging DoT to look into the issue.

Trai had mooted an ‘unbundled and distributed model’ for proliferation of broadband through public Wifi networks, under which a PDO (interested companies, even a small shop owners) can establish and maintain Wifi hotspots and delivery of broadband services.

PDO (public data office) would be supported by PDO aggregator and app provider in performing other functions. A PDOA would aggregate multiple wifi hotspots being operated by individual PDOs and authorise authenticated subscribers to use them for accessing broadband services. PTI MBI

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