As you may remember, in March 2017, TRAI had also suggested lowering of import duty on Wi-Fi equipment and mooted the concept of 'public data offices' and 'aggregators' for providing public Wi-Fi services at cheaper rates.
According to TRAI, "In India, access to data is still limited due to poor coverage of fibre or telecom and prohibitive pricing of cellular data. Public Wi-Fi hotspots hold an important place in the last-mile delivery of broadband to users. It allows offloading telecom networks to ease congestion."
With this pilot project, the regulator wants to establish an open system based Wi-Fi access network interface using which any entity (company, proprietorship, societies, non-profits, etc.) should easily be able to set up a paid public Wi-Fi Access point.
"The experience for a small entrepreneur to purchase, self-register, set-up and operate a PDO must be simple, low- touch and maintenance-free," TRAI said.
The regulator has also unveiled modalities of the open architecture-based Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (WANI) that will form the tech backbone of the proposed network of Wi-Fi hotspots.
TRAI said, “Wi-Fi is a complimentary, not a competing technology to LTE (read: 4G). Public hotspots hold an important place in the last mile delivery of broadband to users.”
Consistent experience across hotspot would also entail “unbundling authentication, payment and accounting (elements) from the hardware and software running on Wi-Fi access point.
Objectives of the Pilot:
Demonstrates 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 the specifications in real life conditions, and suggest improvements.
Jointly develop a business model that fairly allocates value to each provider.
Fine tune the technology and finalize the specifications based on pilot.
Test out integrated payment methods such as coupons (purchased using cash by user or gifted to user), credit, debit cards, net banking, e-wallets, and UPI.
Consultation on Public Wi-Fi
Recognizing the importance of public Wi-Fi networks in Indian context, TRAI initiated a consultation process on this subject in July, 2016. The motivation behind the consultation process was to identify issues in proliferation of public Wi-Fi in the country. As part of this process, TRAI released the "Consultation on Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks". The consultation paper (CP) highlighted issues like interoperability between the Wi-Fi networks of different service providers, de-licensing of additional bands for public Wi-Fi deployment and challenges in authentication and payments procedure of public Wi-Fi networks. On the issue of authentication and payments, the CP sought inputs on a hub-based model along the lines suggested by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), where a central third party AAA (Authentication, Authorization and Accounting) hub facilitates interconnection, authentication and settlement of payments between different network providers.
TRAI also conducted a stakeholder workshop on this issue on 28th September 2016, in collaboration with IIIT, Bangalore. During the discussions, difficulties in authentication and payments were identified as some of the roadblocks in the uptake of public Wi-Fi services from the user's point of view. Following that, TRAI released another consultation note on this particular issue. Released in November 2016, the `Consultation Note on Model for Nation-wide Interoperable and Scalable Public Wi-Fi Networks' proposed an authentication and payment architecture for public Wi-Fi networks and solicited the views of the stakeholders.
Subsequent to the processes mentioned above, TRAI issued a recommendation to the government entitled “Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks” on 9 March 2017.
Mission for WANI
The vision of this initiative is to establish an Open Architecture based Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (WANI), such that;
1.Any entity (company, proprietorship, societies, non-profits, etc.) should easily be able to setup a paid public Wi-Fi Access Point.
2.Users should be able to easily discover WANI compliant SSIDs, do one click authentication and payment, and connect one or more devices in single session.
3.The experience for a small entrepreneur to purchase, self-register, set-up and operate a PDO must be simple, low-touch and maintenance-free.
Who can participate?
Public Data Office Provider/Aggregator (PDO/PDOA): Any Indian entity (Companies, associations, small merchants, etc) having a PAN number wanting to provide one (PDO) or more (PDO Aggregator) hotspots to public using either free or paid model can be a hotspot provider.
Hotspot Hardware/Software/Service Provider: Any software or service provider who is providing necessary software, hardware, services, and/or support to Hotspot Providers. These can be any software/service provider, either local or global, making it easier for PDOs to get up & running.
Following are the requirements for providers wanting to participate in this pilot:
Must be an entity registered in India
Must provide their PAN number and official contact details
Must play the role of a PDO provider or Wi-Fi software/hardware provider or user registration provider; the provider may opt for multiple roles if desired.
To ensure full testing of interoperability, each pilot must have different entities playing different roles.
Must mandatorily comply with the specifications laid out in WANI Technology Architecture document as per their role
How to Apply?
Any interested entity (company, proprietorship, societies, non-profits, etc.) registered in India can apply to TRAI with the following details latest by 31 July 2017:
(a) Name of the entity
(b) Legal Status i.e. company, proprietorship, societies, non-profits, etc
(c) Date of formation and Registration number
(d) PAN Number
(e) Official contact Details
(f) Email address
(g) Role(s) in the Public Pilot Wi-Fi (PDO/PDOA, App Provider/Hardware provider/Software provider)
The Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (WANI) represents an exciting opportunity to do for data what PCOs did for Long Distance Calling. It will bring a new generation of users on to the internet in an assisted manner. It will also boost the consumption of data by the price sensitive Indian customer who rations her cellular data usage. The opportunities created are immense, and all eligible startups and incumbents can collaborate on this unique multi-provider model and be part of the conversation.