WiFi initiative to help create more jobs, says RS Sharma

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Public Wi-Fi based on the ‘pay-as-yougo’ model will help India to improve digital connectivity in rural areas and fuel fiberisation, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman RS Sharma. He says the Wi-Fi model will also lead to newer job opportunities. In an interview with ET’s Muntazir Abbas, Sharma says the regulator is also mulling action against iPhone maker Apple for not supporting Trai’s Do-Not-Disturb (DND) app.

Edited excerpts:


How is Trai looking to enhance India’s digital profile?

Ubiquitous broadband is the first pillar of Digital India. Other things such as software, services, digital literacy and empowerment depend upon the availability of reliable, robust and affordable broadband.

Trai has given a number of recommendations to the government that include utilisation of cable television infrastructure, implementing public-private partnership in BharatNet, formulation of Open Sky policy, and lastly, a year back, had suggested enabling of interoperable Wi-Fi hotspots.

When this becomes viable, telecom service providers and others will be able to provide services based on market-driven strategy with adequate incentives to provide fibre connectivity to these points, and eventually promote fiberisation in the country.

You talked about Wi-Fi Access Network Interface or WANI. What does it mean for rural connectivity?
WANI, in a way, will create distribution channels. If a shopkeeper in a rural or semi-urban region has a fixed-line connection with a data plan, he or she is not able to sell it.

This initiative will help him/her to resell at the last point and data can be monetised, essentially increasing the reach of infrastructure with a larger number of people. Last mile wireless access will not be based on licensed spectrum as free Wi-Fi airwaves won’t put any burden.

We have created an interoperable infrastructure, so everybody is able to latch onto public Wi-Fi network in a single click. It could be a sachet type offering with denomination of Rs 2, Rs 3 or Rs 5 based on a ‘pay-as-yougo’ model.

Will it help in job creation?
It will help in increasing employment opportunities and I would also say it would actually increase the income of small-time traders or shop owners as they would be putting only router, which can be connected to backhaul.

So, here, we are talking about a public data office (PDO).

People can have an extra income from a same resource, and it can help massively in enhancing rural connectivity. Common Service Centres (CSCs) can also become PDOs.

What’s the main reason for coming out with the mobile number portability (MNP) consultation?
Currently, a substantial number of mobile number portability requests are rejected due to various reasons. Errors must be eliminated as it is a technology-driven system, and if there are no issues, it should be done quickly.

What action are you planning against Apple on its stand on the DND app?
We are contemplating some action. Our request is not moving forward and this is a sad thing.

We will be taking a legal opinion in this matter.

What is the progress in the data protection paper? Will it also include apps?
We have issued a consultation, which will be decided in near future covering issues of data security, ownership and privacy on telecom space.

We are in the process and don’t know what form will it take and can’t say if it is going to be a recommendation or regulation at this stage.

When can we expect the spectrum pricing recommendations?
We have consulted stakeholders and got their views. We are working on the recommendations. There is no time cap. It is an important issue, considering new spectrum bands.

Source: Economic Times