Accessing Public Wi-Fi To Get Easier TRAI To Bring PDO Model

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) presented a report on public Wi-Fi open pilot project to telecom minister Manoj Sinha, in which the regulator has mooted for a model based on public data offices (PDOs) for providing Wi-Fi hotspots across the country with prices starting as low as Rs 2.


The PDO model recommended by TRAI is loosely based on the public calling offices (PCOs) model, which in the late 1980s, revolutionised the communications sector allowing people-to-people contact at affordable rates. The PCO model was considered to have heralded the first telecom revolution in India in which the Centre for Development of Telematics (CDOT), a government owned enterprise, played a major role. “Broadband proliferation is an important pillar of Digital India. Wi-Fi is the cheapest option, given low cost of equipment and free spectrum,”

TRAI chairman RS Sharma told after presenting the report to the telecom minister. The recommendations include a Wi-Fi network architecture that supports one-time authentication requirement, interoperability across different Wi-Fi networks, ease of payment through any instrument and above all, inexpensive service. “To provide a simplified, consistent experience means unbundling authentication, payment and accounting from hardware and software running on the access point. This will allow small entrepreneurs such as tea shops, grocery shops, to set up and maintain access points, whereas device manufacturers, payment companies, ISPs/Telco’s and consumer internet companies can provide the remaining pieces to set up PDOs,” TRAI suggested in the report.

“The public Wi-Fi pilot outcome aims to offer a seamless experience to end users…This will allow small entrepreneurs such as tea shops, grocery shops etc. to set up and maintain access points. Whereas, device manufacturers, payment companies, Internet Service Providers/Telco’s and consumer internet companies can provide the remaining pieces to set up PDOs,” TRAI said.

TRAI suggested

In a bid to provide easy internet access for all individuals, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) sought simplification in the establishment of public Wi-Fi access points. Alongside the presentation of a report on Public Wi-Fi Open Pilot Project, the TRAI suggested the setting up of Public Data Offices (PDOs), along the lines of age-old public call offices (PCOs), to enhance Wi-Fi connectivity, and slash internet rates significantly. The TRAI noted opined that the availability of broadband services at a very low cost and in every corner of the country is a basic requirement of the Digital India mission, and added that Wi-Fi is a technology that can easily help meet this requirement. In order to demonstrate a proof of concept for interoperability, the telecom regulator had conducted a pilot trial of the framework mentioned in the recommendations given to the Ministry in March 2017, which commenced on October 16 last year.

The TRAI noted that a number of entities had registered for participating in the pilot project as PDOs, app and software/hardware service providers. As per the authority, the main idea behind the initiative was to establish an open architecture-based Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (WANI), such that any entity (company, proprietorship, societies, and non-profits) may easily setup a public Wi-Fi access point. Furthermore, the authority suggested that users should be able to easily discover WANI-compliant SSIDs, facilitate one-click authentication and payment, and connect one or more devices in a single session. It also urged that the experience for a small entrepreneur to purchase, self-register, setup and operate a PDO must be simple, low-touch and maintenance-free, with products available for consumption from as low as Rs.2.

Moreover, the TRAI noted that providers (PDO, PDOA, Access Point hardware/software, user authentication, KYC and payment provider) are unbundled to eliminate silos and closed systems, as this would allow multiple parties in the ecosystem to come together and enable large scale adoption.

In this regard, the pilot was launched to demonstrate that unbundling of services reduces rework, speeds up development and hence is the most effective way to tackle this complex problem; prove that multi-provider, inter-operable, collaborative model increases the overall innovation in the system, dismantles monopolies and encourages passing of benefits to end user; test specifications in real-life conditions; jointly develop a business model that fairly allocates value to each provider; fine tune the technology and test out integrated payment methods such as credit/debit cards, net banking, e-wallets, and Unified Payment Interface (UPI).

Earlier, the TRAI had brought out a consultation paper on “Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks” with a view to examine the need of encouraging public Wi-Fi networks in the country from a public policy point of view, discuss the issues in its proliferation and find out solutions for the same. Subsequently, the telecom authority came out with its recommendations on “Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks” which was sent to the Department of Telecom on March 9 last year.

TRAI, in its report, said users should be able to easily discover the networks, do one-click authentication and payment and connect their devices to Wi-Fi hotspots. The regulator had earlier come out with recommendations on proliferation of broadband through public Wi-Fi networks.

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