TRAI wants to boost scalable public Wi-Fi networks

TRAI wants Indian telecom operators and other stakeholders to suggest a business model for interoperable and scalable public Wi-Fi networks across the country.

TRAI or Telecom Regulatory Authority of India believes that public Wi-Fi networks can be effective complement to the wired and wireless mobile broadband infrastructure in the country to achieve the vision of Digital India.

Possible uses of public Wi-Fi networks

# Provide better in-building coverage

Provide mobile data offload thus relieving capacity in the macro cellular networks which use the scarce licensed spectrum

Possible ubiquitous seamless Internet connectivity

Provide Over-The-Top applications and services much similar to that provided over mobile broadband networks that can be location and context aware and provide opportunities for monetization of the same.

Challenges in deployment of Public Wi-Fi

With stagnated growth in landline, backhaul for Wi-Fi networks is a challenge

Wireless backhaul has spectrum scarcity and assignment challenges

Wired backhaul (i.e. optic fiber) is expensive and has Right of Way challenges for large scale roll-outs Authentication is still cumbersome and inflexible; requires mechanisms such as One Time Password (OTP) that necessitates the requirement of mobiles with appropriate SIMs which is a potential problem for foreigners and tourists

Providing carrier grade Wi-Fi is a challenge due to inadequacy of associated infrastructure such as power availability, operating conditions, and seamless hand-offs.

Payment mechanisms are still evolving and seamless interoperable payment system for Wi-Fi networks is not yet adopted. Hence matured monetization models have not evolved

Not all spectrum in the globally harmonized band for Wi-Fi has been released yet in India.

TRAI said the authentication and payment mechanisms that exist today for accessing Public Wi-Fi networks are cumbersome and tedious. No single standard exists and hence it is not scalable and interoperable across the country.

One possible way to create such a unified authentication and payment infrastructure is to leverage the national open Application Program Interfaces (APIs) implemented for Aadhaar, eKYC (e-Know Your Customer), and Unified Payment Interface (UPI).

TRAI wants to know

Is the architecture suggested in the consultation note for creating unified authentication and payment infrastructure will enable nationwide standard for authentication and payment interoperability?

Would you like to suggest any alternate model?

Can Public Wi-Fi access providers resell capacity and bandwidth to retail users?

Is “light touch regulation” using methods such as “registration” instead of “licensing” preferred for them?

What should be the regulatory guidelines on “unbundling” Wi-Fi at access and backhaul level?

Whether reselling of bandwidth should be allowed to venue owners such as shop keepers through Wi-Fi at premise? In such a scenario please suggest the mechanism for security compliance

What should be the guidelines regarding sharing of costs and revenue across all entities in the public Wi-Fi value chain?

Is regulatory intervention required or it should be left to forbearance and individual contracting?