The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will put out a policy soon for the proliferation of public WiFi hotspots, a senior official said. “In the very near future, we are going to come out with a policy which will enable proliferation of public WiFi hotspots,” DoT Member (Technology) K Ramchand said at the Broadband India Forum’s India Satcom event (broadcast here). “The demand for bandwidth for providing these hotspots will be there, and we’ll try to use all technologies, including satellite technologies, for providing broadband to all the citizens of this country,” he added.
The policy will come at a time when the telecom industry — except for Jio — hesitates on upgrading their networks to 5G, even as mounting data demand from consumers strains their networks. Telcos have been complaining that they don’t have the spectrum necessary to provide high speeds and serve large amounts of data demand. A high number of public WiFi hotspots could serve increased demand from mobile internet users who don’t have fixed broadband connections at their homes or workplaces.
A policy for public WiFI hotspots has been long overdue. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) under previous chair RS Sharma had held two sets of consultations as far back as 2016, one on a policy for proliferation of public WiFi hotspots, and another on an interoperable framework for these hotspots, involving Aadhaar authentication for users. The DoT will probably rely on the recommendations from these processes in its forthcoming policy on WiFi hotspots. In a pilot project that TRAI conducted three years ago, the regulator envisioned what it called ‘Public Data Offices’, or PDOs, modelled after the payphone public call offices (PCOs) of yore, to fuel the penetration of WiFi hotspots in India.