Public WiFi a pipedream in India with stakeholders at loggerheads

Kolkata: More than 4 years have elapsed since public WiFi turned a buzzword of types, however a national ubiquitous public WiFi community remains to be nowhere in sight.

Reason: Broadband service suppliers and telcos are sharply divided over the utility of the know-how, and the telecom department and the regulator are additionally on completely different pages on the mechanism to ship such providers, a situation that would proceed to deprive thousands and thousands of data-hungry customers in India from having fun with high obtain speeds and high quality video expertise anyplace and always.

Telcos say there’s no enterprise case for public WiFi, given the low knowledge charges and safety considerations. But broadband service suppliers reject this, declaring that the charges are literally set to rise amid telco requires a flooring, including that with knowledge demand surging, entry to back-up public WiFi might have properly complemented stretched mobile networks in guaranteeing a high quality, video-grade broadband expertise.

Moreover, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) just lately rejected the DoT’s name to increase the licencing norms relevant to web service suppliers (ISPs) and digital community operators (VNOs) to the general public knowledge workplace aggregators (PDOAs) – who have to ship the final mile public WiFi providers underneath the regulator’s suggestions – saying such a situation would hinder the latter’s skill to ship inexpensive public WiFi providers and enhance broadband penetration.

Amidst all this, the DoT is but to take a closing name even 4 years after the telecom regulator had really useful a national public WiFi structure by unlicensed entities—one thing just like the PCO mannequin of yore—to spice up broadband penetration.

Telecom client activists are predictably exasperated.

“The need for high quality data connectivity anywhere and at all times is a real need in these times of Covid-19 for consumers, which could have been addressed if we had public WiFi networks on the ground, but that seems a pipedream now, a real opportunity blown, thanks to conflicting positions of stakeholders,” Hemant Upadhyay, advisor (telecoms & IT) at Consumer Voice, a number one telecom customers watchdog, informed ET.

He added that the federal government might have additionally managed the countrywide migration of struggling migrants amid Covid extra successfully if public WiFi networks had been operational, as migrants might have had higher connectivity on the transfer and accessed a bunch of citizen-centric providers.

But Rajan Mathews, director basic of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), asserts that public WiFi has a really restricted enterprise case as India has the most cost effective knowledge charges on the earth at Rs 7 per GB, and can also be among the many high 5 nations on the 4G availability metric that has led to proliferation of mobile broadband. The COAI represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

Pure play broadband gamers garbage the decrease knowledge tariffs concept and assert mobile broadband can by no means assure high knowledge speeds, and that telcos going through acute community congestion would do properly to depend on back-up public WiFi to successfully handle video downloads that already represent virtually 70% of knowledge visitors. They anticipate video downloads to solely surge and change into the brand new regular as soon as 5G networks arrive.

“The cost advantage theory is wrong as data prices appear headed up with operators seeking a floor price as it’s evident that the depth to which data rates have plunged in the past four years is not sustainable,” says T V Ramachandran, president at Broadband India Forum (BIF), which counts Qualcomm, Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Hughes, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and Intel amongst key members.

Ramachandran added that telcos are additionally shedding out on the providers high quality entrance by opposing development of WiFi hotspots.

Mobile carriers although mentioned Trai’s name for creating PDOAs to ship public WiFi providers and not using a licence would damage customers, pose safety dangers and likewise rob the federal government of treasured income.

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Tarun Banerjee

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