DoT may ask Trai to relook at public WiFi recommendations


DELHI: The department of telecom (DoT) is likely to ask the sector regulator to reconsider its recommendation on public wi-fi networks, pointing out that private entities offering the service though registration alone would not be possible, and that it should suggest alternatives.

DoT officials said the government will not be able to allow registration for selling data through public Wi-Fi hotspots, as existing rules mandate such entities to take licences from the government.

“Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has suggested that public data office (PDO) aggregator may offer services through registration, but according to the Telegraph Act, it is clear that the process should be through giving licences,” a senior official said.

Another official said, “It is not a public call office (PCO), or a cyber cafe, so the PDO aggregator will serve as a customer service on a permanent basis, giving wi-fi as a re-seller. Prima facie, it (recommendations) will go back to Trai with DoT’s views.” The regulator may be asked to provide alternative suggestions, the official added.

If the DoT sends the suggestion back to Trai for reconsideration, the regulator will have 15 days to reply to it, after which the DoT will send it to the Telecom Commission – the highest decisionmaking body in the DoT – which will take the final call.

Trai has already invited all companies, app providers and hardware or software providers, for setting up a pilot project of public wi-fi hotspots—which it calls PDOs—which will allow users to access pay-as-you-go ‘sachet-sized’ wi-fi facilities priced between Rs 2 and Rs 20.
The invitation was part of the recommendations issued by the regulator in March this year, to a consultation paper issued in July last year. The regulator said last month that it had received huge interest for the initiative, the broad objective of which is to enable consumers to use data for last-mile connectivity through multiple hotspots across the country.

Trai subsequently issued the architectural framework for allowing users to do one-time enrolment into the service through KYC and mobile one-time password and get internet access.

The framework will also facilitate the pilot, which will also test out integrated payment methods such as coupons – purchased using cash by users or gifted to users – credit or debit cards, net banking, e-wallets, and unified payments interface. The learnings would help in identifying the positives and problem areas before national proliferation, the regulator had said.