In about a month, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India or TRAI will propose guidelines on how to implement public Wi-Fi in the country, bringing us one step closer to Digital India. Driven by the recent demonetization of a large bank note and the unavailability of cash, a large section of the population moved to digital cash transitions. Besides credit and debit card transactions, a lot of transactions were done from digital wallets using smartphones. This required internet connectivity at the point of sale and the hence, was a motive behind ‘Public Wi-Fi networks’.
India still does not have proper high speed internet connections, and data connectivity offered by both government and private providers are costly enough. At present, BSNL offers unlimited cellular data over 3G without any data caps or bandwidth reduction, but is both expensive and suffers from connectivity options. There are other operators such as Airtel or Reliance who is offering high speed internet mostly as promotional offers. Beyond that, internet connection is still expensive.
TRAI aims to make internet available to the public at only 10 percent of the current cost. This will make internet more available to the rural areas. TRAI’s consultation paper does not deal with free Wi-Fi services, but rather costs that are just 10 percent of the prevailing costs.
“We will give our recommendations in 20-25 days. The issue of Wi-Fi proliferation is an important one. The basic objective of Digital India is to encourage digital transactions of all kinds … it is therefore important for people to have broadband availability and affordability,” TRAI Chairman R S Sharma said on sidelines of an open house on ‘Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks’.
When asked by when will the public Wi-Fi hotspots become a reality in India, Sharma said the regulator’s mandate is to provide recommendations and framework.