The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is proposing that Wi-Fi hotspots be created across the country be modeled on the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) being implemented in the digital payments sector. The telecom regulator is in the process of preparing a report on this currently and it will be forwarded to the nodal ministry, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for its consideration.
The report will cite the learnings from the pilot projects TRAI has been running in 2 cities, NOIDA and Bengaluru. The target set for itself by the DoT is quite ambitious, in that it wants to setup 500,000 such hotspots before the end of 2018, up from the current 38,000.
TRAI Chairman R.S. Sharma has said that the challenge is to create a seamless network where the users are able to continue enjoying the service as they switch from one hotspot to another, with the handing over and handshake protocols within the grid are in place including for the payments. This is where the comparison with the UPI scheme come into play. There has to the user authentication, payment and service operation all integrated and happening smoothly.
In the Wi-Fi hotspot ecosystem, public data offices (PDOs) will be setup by private entities, but the marketing, customer acquisition, payments and settlements on the service need not be within their scope. In the words of Sharma, “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”.
TRAI had started the work way back in the middle of 2016 and had sent a set of recommendations a year back in March 2017. The highlights of these proposals include a sachet-size data packs starting at as low as Rs 2 each and the PDO aggregators will be free to form their own associations with other service providers like user authentication and payment processes.
Firms, app providers and hardware or software providers are all being pooled in to participate in the projects. The draft design offers details of the technology specifications for compliance by various providers to ensure full Wi-Fi access network interface (WANI) system interoperability.
If this ambitious project does take off, possibly you will have less to worry about the data pack provided by your telecom service provider.