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Stakeholders want only licensed players to offer Wi-Fi

Kiran Rathee / New Delhi 05 Sep 16 | 12:38 AM

A majority of stakeholders have reiterated only licensed players should be allowed to offer Wi-Fi services at public places while many have proposed that availability of unlicensed spectrum should be increased to promote such services. 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in July had released a consultation paper, seeking views on making broadband available through public Wi-Fi networks that would make data available at a tenth of mobile networks’ costs. 

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The regulator had also asked whether non-telecom companies should be allowed to participate in setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots.  

Stakeholders which have submitted their comments include Assocham, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), Internet and Mobile Association of India, whereas companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Vodafone and Tech Mahindra have sent their views.

“Any entity which wants to provide commercial internet access through Wi-Fi technology needs to obtain unified license with access service authorisation and can be provided only by licensed telecommunications service providers(TSPs)/internet service providers (ISPs) which have their own network to extend the last mile access," Assocham said.

Further, it has been proposed that backhaul capacity needs to be increased considerably if Wi-Fi is to be extended.

Cisco said more spectrum in the 5-GHz band should be made available for unlicensed Wi-Fi use. “Currently, only 5.825–5.875 GHz band is allowed for outdoor deployment and the spectrum bands 5.150-5.350 GHz and 5.725–5.850 GHz are not allowed for outdoor deployment. We suggest all bands should be allowed for outdoor deployment," Cisco said.

ISPAI has proposed the bands which could be considered for de-licensing  2.483-2.5 Ghz, 2.7-2.9 Ghz, apart from E and V band, recommended for light regulation by Trai.

However, industry body COAI has suggested against the need for more unlicensed spectrum. “At present, access spectrum is not a bottleneck for the spread of Wi-Fi service. Hence, there is no immediate need to de-license any additional spectrum for Wi-Fi," COAI said.

Microsoft has said Wi-Fi in the country would be aided by an increase in availability of unlicensed spectrum in 5 GHz, 60 GHz, 70 GHz, 80 GHz, UHF and VHF frequency bands and also through TV white space. White space refers to the unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum.

Microsoft said TV white space as part of a communication network bore great potential for enabling internet access in rural areas, not only because it was easy to set up and maintain but it was cost-effective. Vodafone said one of the key requirements for encouraging the proliferation of Wi-Fi services was ensuring availability of right of way on fair, reasonable, transparent and non-discriminatory terms for all TSPs and ISPs.

The operator also submitted that Trai should recommend that spectrum usage charges shall be payable only on revenues arising from licensed spectrum acquired by a telco.

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