New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) aims to develop a framework similar to the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to aid the rollout of public Wi-Fi hot spots in the country.
The regulator will send a report to the department of telecommunications (DoT) by March end, based on the results of its pilot projects, Trai chairman R.S. Sharma said in an interview.
“We have been conducting pilots (for Wi-Fi hot spots). A report based on the results of the pilots will be ready soon. We are writing that report. It will be submitted to the DoT by the end of March," he said.
The pilots were conducted in Noida and Bengaluru.
The report could serve as a reckoner for DoT, which has separately set an ambitious target of deploying 500,000 Wi-Fi hot spots by December across the country from the current 38,000.
“We are working on a framework which will ensure that the Wi-Fi hot spots can be provided in a seamless manner, in a grid situation. We are basically prescribing interoperable standards to authenticate the user, payment mechanism, and unbundling (operations)," Sharma said.
“What UPI is for the payment ecosystem, this framework will be for the Wi-Fi hot spot ecosystem," he added.
Launched in 2016, UPI is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile app (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing and merchant payments under one hood.
Under the framework, an entity setting up a Wi-Fi hot spot need not be responsible for its marketing, customer acquisition, payments and settlements. “Unbundling creates efficiencies and customer convenience. There can be multiple payment mechanisms, multiple authentication mechanisms, but the idea is there should be a single-click on-boarding on the Wi-Fi hot spot," Sharma said.
The regulator had initiated discussions on Wi-Fi hot spots in July 2016 when it first floated a consultation paper on ‘Proliferation of Broadband Through Public Wi-Fi Networks’, to invite public comments, based on which Trai sent recommendations to DoT in March 2017. It had at that time recommended a new framework to set up public data offices (PDOs), similar to public call offices (PCOs), for providing public Wi-Fi hot spots. These “pay-as-you-go" PDOs will offer sachet-sized data packs starting at Rs2.
PDO aggregators should also be allowed to enter into agreements with third-party service providers for the purposes of managing authentication and payment processes, Trai had suggested.
In July last year, Trai issued a draft design of public Wi-Fi network project under which any entity with a valid permanent account number (PAN) would be allowed to set up public data offices (PDOs).
It had also invited firms, app providers and hardware or software providers to set up a pilot project for this purpose.
The pilot aims to demonstrate that unbundling of PDO provider, user authentication and KYC provider, and payment provider would eliminate silos and allow multiple parties in the ecosystem to come together and enable large-scale adoption.
The draft design also provided detailed technology specifications for compliance by various providers to ensure full Wi-Fi access network interface (WANI) system interoperability.
Trai had also recommended a central registry managed by either itself or DoT or an entity approved by either of them containing information about the PDOs.
These PDOs are expected to offer Wi-Fi services which would be complementary to the data services by the mobile network provider.