The government is working on a framework to allow shopkeepers, restaurant and other small businessmen to retail WiFi services on a model similar to yesteryears public calling booths, a top official said on Thursday.
The model was suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to set up Public Data Offices (PDOs) to enhance wifi hotspots across the country but it was put on the back burner due to opposition from telecom service providers.
Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of an ITU-APT Foundation of India event, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said, "We will bring some architecture of PDOs."
"Whether it will be exactly the same as Trai has recommended I don't know. But in principle, yes we will try to come up with an architecture. We do want to come with a large number of small infrastructure providers like kirana (grocery) stores etc," Sundararajan mentioned.
Based on existing rules for cyber cafes, Trai had recommended that a new set of players, to be called Public Data Office Aggregator (PDOA), should be allowed to resell internet services through yesteryears PCO-type set up.
The regulator had recommended that like cyber cafes, which provide internet access to the public after registering themselves, PDOA should be allowed to provide internet access services after registering themselves with the telecom department.
Telecom operators opposed the model saying it will adversely impact the debt-ridden industry and compromise national security.
Trai chairman R S Sharma said that telecom operators view that there will be a new set of competitors in the business is a misconception.
"To my mind, it is a complete misconception. Your (telecom operators) customers of the fixed line are going to become your retailers. Wifi is complementary to TSPs and not a competing technology. If this particular architecture is rolled out and everybody collaborates, I feel will achieve more than the target set under NDCP (National Digital Communications Policy," Sharma said.
The NDCP has a broad target to make available broadband services with a speed of 50 megabits per second for all citizens.
Sundararajan said that government is working on setting up a sandbox model in India for testing wifi technologies and promote the development of wifi devices.
"We expect to place proposal of wifi sandbox in the next Digital Communications Commission meeting," she said.