Regulators

TRAI wants reduction of import duty on Wi-fi equipment to help growth

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NEW DELHI: The import duty applicable upon Wi-Fi access point equipment should be revisited in coordination with the Commerce Ministry so that the cost of providing Wi-Fi service in the country leading to proliferation of broadband services can come down, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has said.

It also said that the Department of Telecom should issue a clarification in respect of Clause (1)(xxii) of the UL VNO Guidelines, specifically clarifying that there is no exclusivity requirement upon UL VNO licensees for internet services, that is, a UL VNO can patent multiple NSO for providing internet service.

In its Recommendations on "Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks", TRAI said a new framework should be put in place for setting up of Public Data Offices (PDOs). Under this framework, PDOs in agreement with Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) should be allowed to provide public Wi-Fi services. This will not only increase the number of public hotspots but also make internet service more affordable in the country.

It said the existing requirement of authentication through OTP for each instance of access may be done away with. Authentication through eKYC, eCAF and other electronic modes should be allowed for the purposes of KYC obligations by PDOAs. This would enable PDOAs to obtain eKYC information and automatically authenticate the user device based on parameters such as the device's MAC ID or through a mobile APP, which will store data required for authentication of the subscriber.

In consultation with the security agencies, the DoT may consider authentication by MAC ID of the device or through a mobile APP which stores eKYC data of the subscriber and automatically authenticates the subscriber.

PDOAs may be allowed to provide public Wi-Fi services without obtaining any specific license for the purpose. However, they would be subject to specific registration requirements (prescribed by the DoT) which will include obligations to ensure that e-KYC, authentication and record-keeping requirements (for customers, devices and PDOs enlisted with the PDOAs) are fulfilled by the PDOAs. This will encourage village level entrepreneurship and provide strong employment opportunities, especially in rural areas.

PDOAs should be allowed to enter into agreements with third party application/service providers for the purposes of managing authentication and payment processes. Appropriate guidelines may be issued to ensure that customer consent is obtained, and other issues surrounding privacy and protection of sensitive personal information are addressed. This will encourage innovation in authentication and payment processes resulting in ease in access of the Wi-Fi services.

TRAI said it was of the view that implementation of the recommendations will lead to introduction of a new set of small players in the Wi-Fi service provisioning space, who will be able to contribute in a big way in making broadband available to the masses.

The Authority had suo-moto issued a Consultation Paper on "Proliferation of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Networks" on 13 July 2016 to explore the regulatory and commercial constraints that potentially hinder the growth of scalable and ubiquitous Wi-Fi in the country. This included a review of any potential licensing restrictions, measures required to facilitate interoperability between Wi-Fi networks, possible de-licensing of additional bandwidths for the purposes of expediting the deployment of public Wi-Fi, and several demand-side issues such as roaming capabilities, authentication and payment processes, that potentially hinder the uptake of public Wi-Fi.

While the comments and counter-comments received from the stakeholders were placed on the TRAI website, a workshop on public Wi-Fi networks was conducted in collaboration with the International Institute of Information Technology (lilT), Bangalore, on 28 September 2016.

The purpose of this workshop was to explore various models of public Wi-Fi that could address the resource gap in terms of delivering public Wi-Fi in remote areas. Based on the discussions held at the workshop, the Authority released a Consultation Note on "Model for Nationwide Interoperable and Scalable Public Wi-Fi Networks" on 15 November 2016. The Consultation Note attempted to explore the roles of different stakeholders in the Public Wi-Fi network value chain and build an ecosystem for promoting scalable and sustainable partnerships for large scale nation wide deployment; and explore viable models that could be adopted towards rapidly deploying affordable and interoperable public Wi? Fi networks. The comments received from the stakeholders were placed on the TRAI's website. An Open House Discussion (OHD) with stakeholders was also organized on 9 January 2017 at New Delhi.

The detailed recommendations are on trai.gov.in

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