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COAI Objects to TRAI Recommendations on Public Wi-Fi Model

Telecom industry body COAI is learnt to have opposed regulator TRAI’s recommendations on public Wi-Fi as it believes the proposed norms are in contravention to existing licence rules and would create non-level field for licensed service providers.

Among various suggestions, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has objected to recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to create public data office aggregators (PDOA) and public data office (PDO) who 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 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.

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 public using either free or paid model.

TRAI has mooted concept of public Wi-Fi to offer a 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 2.

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 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. – ToI

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