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Only smaller players, not telcos, can scale public WiFi: TRAI Chairman RS Sharma

Telecom companies cannot scale on the ground level to deploy public WiFi across the country; instead "we have to create an incentive model for a chaiwala, panwala, and the grocery-store owner to give WiFi hotspots, and only then it will scale", TRAI Chairman RS Sharma said at an event in Delhi yesterday. Telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan reiterated that India cannot be dependent on 3-4 [telecom] providers, and instead it needs a system with ISPs, VNOs, PDOs, and small and medium enterprises to satisfy the communication needs of the country. "Telcos have already made huge capital investments, but they cannot continue those investments at the level," said Sundarajan "We must incentivise smaller players in large numbers, just like for UPI and Uber. Both Sharma and I share the sentiment that although the TSPs think they're losing an opportunity, they should actually encourage smaller players to come in for last-mile connectivity, whether it is ISPs, VNOs or PDOs," she added. WANI will be to WiFi, what UPI is to payments: According to Sharma, public WiFi will have to be interoperable, "just as today UPI makes it absolutely easy transfer even one rupee. We have got this idea from Aadhaar and UPI. WANI [WiFi Access Network Interface] will be the UPI of WiFi; it will be the scalable architecture of Wifi, just as UPI is the scalable architecture for payments systems." Sharma said that TRAI has conducted a successful pilot of WANI, which has been submitted to the DoT. "It's just a chaiwala…

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