(Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
(Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

Telecom firms should back rollout of public wi-fi hotspots: Niti Aayog secy

  • A new set of players should be allowed to resell Internet services through yesteryear PCO type of set-up, according to Trai
  • These will be referred to as public data offices

New Delhi: Telecom operators need to support the rollout of public wi-fi hotspots to gain edge in the technology space, Niti Aayog special secretary Yaduvendra Mathur said on Friday.

"TSPs (telecom service providers) ... also need to support this move (rollout of public wi-fi). If you do not allow for hotspots to roll out, we will be again behind the curve," Mathur said at a Broadband India Forum event.

To push proliferation of wi-fi hotspots, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recommended that a new set of players, to be called pubic data office aggregator (PDOA), should be allowed to resell Internet services through yesteryear PCO type of set-up. These will be called public data offices.

The recommendation of Trai was based on existing rules for cyber cafes.

Telecom operators opposed the public wi-fi model recommended by Trai, saying it will affect the debt-ridden industry and compromise national security.

Later, telecom operators agreed to rollout wi-fi hotpsots by themselves under existing rules. Mathur said democratisation of wi-fi hotspot was required in the country and called for the creation of a National Trust Registry for IoT devices so they could operate on the network of all telecom operators smoothly. Talking about over-the-top (OTT) players, he said both OTTs and TSPs had a lot to gain from each other. "There is a strong case for an even stronger relationship between them to emerge, given the continued and exponential consumption of data in India is at the lowest rate globally."

Broadband India Forum president T.V. Ramachandran said just as mobile transformed India, OTT was the next dimension of change. "VoLTE has made voice calls free. OTT services have added to the GDP of the country as well as to the productivity of people. This is in addition to the other benefits that they deliver to the TSPs at a time when their revenue from voice is zero. OTT is a very powerful and necessary lever for TSPs and ISPs as revenue generators."

TSPs must be provided relief from excessive levies and taxes to ensure they stayed healthy, he added. "TSPs create a value for the whole of economy and hence their financial health is important for the Indian economy to grow and prosper. Thus, there is a need to create an ecosystem that is a win-win for them and all other stakeholders in their ecosystem. Also, OTTs do not fall under the Telegraph Act."

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