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Policy decisions on public Wi-Fi, PLI scheme for telecom a big positive: STL

The recently-announced WANI framework for public Wi-Fi networks will speed up broadband proliferation, especially in rural areas, and scheme along with the series of other policy measures like PLI for telecom augurs well for the sector and Digital India road map, a top official of Sterlite Technologies (STL) has said.

Anand Agarwal, Group CEO of Sterlite Technologies, a digital networks integrator, said that the government”s thrust on public Wi-Fi would be “complementary” to the move to connect over six lakh villages in India with optical fibre.

WANI would drive broadband access at the last mile through localised distribution channels and availability of bite-sized data subscription, say Rs 5-10 packs, Agarwal told PTI.
Last week, the government approved setting up of public Wi-Fi networks and access points by local kirana and neighbourhood shops through public data offices model that will not involve any licence, fee or registration. The public Wi-Fi networks, under WANI, would have an architecture involving multiple players — Public Data Office (PDO), Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) and app providers.

“The recent announcements by the government over last few months highlight the realisation of Digital India, and all the actions are in accordance with that. The announcements on taking fibre to six lakh villages, the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for telecom equipment, and WANI are a big positive,” Agarwal said.

By bringing local entrepreneurs into the equation, WANI would do for Wi-Fi and broadband propagation what PCOs had done for calling and voice connectivity, he said.

“It is a scheme similar to PCO or local cable TV operators…WANI will unleash Wi-Fi and broadband propagation especially in rural areas. We see this in conjunction with fact that as fibre reaches the villages, having Wi-Fi connectivity inside village, maybe by a village level entrepreneur setting up Public Data office there, will increase the broadband access through localised distribution channel and availability of bite-sized data subscription, say Rs 5-10 packs,” Agarwal added.

The move would give a further impetus for taking fibre to villages and setting up Wi-Fi access points there, Agarwal said adding that the company expected more business opportunities to arise from the recent announcements.

Under the WANI framework, PDO will establish, maintain and operate Wi-Fi access points and deliver broadband services to subscribers, while PDOA will act as an aggregator of PDOs and perform the functions relating to authorisation and accounting.

App provider will be responsible for developing application to register users and discover WANI compliant Wi-Fi hotspots in the nearby area and display the same within the app for accessing the internet service.

A central registry will maintain the details of app providers, PDOAs, and PDOs. To begin with, the central registry will be maintained by C-DoT. No registration would be required for PDOs, while PDOAs and app providers will have to get themselves registered with the telecom department through the online registration portal without paying any fee. The registration will be granted within seven days of applying. PTI

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