Telecom regulator TRAI on Thursday recommended small entrepreneurs and shop owners be allowed to become Wi-Fi hotspot venues and team up with 'aggregators' to offer low-cost public Internet services in a PCO-type model.
"Since there is a significant section of the population still to be connected, measures taken to enable larger service providers to provide public Wi-Fi…will not suffice….Steps need to be taken to ensure that in addition to existing service providers, small providers can also enter the public Wi-Fi ecosystem and have the capability and incentives to provide public Wi-Fi on a small scale," TRAI said.
TRAI has suggested the concept of 'Public Data Offices' and 'aggregators' for providing public Wi-Fi services at cheaper rates.
According to TRAI, the Wi-Fi venues can be provided by local shop owners or grocery stores and `aggregator' can provide last mile Wi-Fi services and seamless experience for authentication and payments. The aggregator can buy bandwidth from Internet service providers and re-sell them.
The aggregators would not require any specific licence, but would have to adhere to registration and record keeping requirements prescribed by the telecom department, TRAI said.
"Further, the PDOs will ensure that users can buy the data amount based on their needs. The availability of data services for small token values will stimulate the demand for public Wi-Fi services," it said.
TRAI said that during public consultations, it came across certain existing models which have managed to stimulate demand for paid public Wi-Fi by offering "sachet" sized access plans of low denominations ranging Rs 2 to Rs 20.
"However, the success of such models is predicated upon appropriate changes being effected in the regulatory and licensing regime," it said.
The import duty applicable on Wi-Fi equipment should be revisited, it said, adding that this will reduce the cost of providing Internet services.
TRAI has favoured doing away with the existing requirement of authentication through one-time password for each instance of access, and said that "authentication through eKYC, eCAF (Customer Acquisition Form) and other electronic modes be allowed for the purpose of KYC (Know Your Customer) obligations".
It has also suggested that virtual network operators should be allowed to join hands with multiple network service operators for providing internet service.
The telecom regulator has favoured de-licensing spectrum in the 5.725 5.825 GHz spectrum band for outdoor usage, and asked the telecom department to expedite decision on allocating E-band and V-band to service providers.