Telecom industry body the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) is learnt to have opposed the recommendation of regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on public Wi-Fi, as it believes the proposed norms are in contravention to existing licence rules and will create a non-level-playing field for licensed service providers.
Among various suggestions, the COAI has objected to the recommendation of TRAI to create public data office aggregators (PDOA) and public data office (PDO) which should be allowed to provide internet access through Wi-Fi technology without taking a licence.
“Any such service will be in conflict with the existing licensing framework. More importantly, establishing public Wi-Fi networks without a licence, will be illegal being in violation of India Telegraph Act 1885,” COAI director general Rajan S Mathews said in a letter to telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan.
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TRAI’s concept involves PDOs – much like PCOs of yesteryears that galvanised connectivity. The PDOs will be companies, or even small merchants, interested in providing Wi-Fi hotspots to the public using either free or paid model. TRAI has mooted the concept of public Wi-Fi to offer seamless data connectivity to end users and allow small entrepreneurs such as tea shops, grocery shops, etc. to set up and maintain access points as PDO.
According to the regulator, products available for consumption should begin from sachet sized, that is, low denomination, as low as Rs two. COAI, whose members include Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Jio, said that the recommendations of TRAI if implemented will also adversely affect the level playing field. Telecom operators hold licences which bind them with obligations to pay levies such as licence fees and spectrum usage charges and ensure adherence to various regulatory and security-related requirements in the interest of the country.
“Allowing the same activity to be performed by an unlicensed entity would tilt the level playing field,” Mathews said. He added that the TRAI’s recommendations would give an unfair advantage to unlicensed firms and thus lead to revenue loss to both service provider with valid permits and government exchequer. The industry body also opposed freeing up of spectrum in the V-Band (57 Ghz-64 Ghz) and allowing them to be used by PDOs and public data aggregators.