Public Wi-Fi in India: the next steps

Public Wi-Fi in India: the next steps

More details have been revealed about the roll out of public Wi-Fi in India via what is called the PM WANI scheme, which aims to increase the penetration of broadband connectivity across India.

PM WANI stands for Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface. The latest guidelines issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) suggest that any entity – from a grocery store to a tea stall – can obtain bandwidth from telecom/internet service providers to open a public Wi-Fi network under the project.

And backhaul shouldn’t be an issue. According to DoT guidelines, “The backhaul requirement for these Wi-Fi access points will be met by procuring internet bandwidth from the telecom service providers/internet service providers."

Indian press reports indicate that service provision will involve public data offices (PDOs), public data office aggregators (PDOAs), and application providers, whose details will be managed centrally under the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-Dot).

Users can access a Wi-Fi hotspot by paying a fee through an app; the fee will be divided between the PDO and PDOA. No license will be required for delivering public Wi-Fi services.

Any company registered under India’s Companies Act of 2013 can enrol itself as a PDOA with DoT’s certification. The PDOA will oversee the functioning of PDOs along with authorization and accounting of Wi-Fi connections.  A PDOA must comply with foreign direct investment rules.

A platform will be required to enable users to discover WANI-compliant Wi-Fi in an area. The government is already in talks with app developers about this.

Meanwhile, underlining the potential of Wi-Fi in underserved areas, Vodafone Idea (now known as Vi) recently launched its Wi-Fi calling services in two circles (administrative sub-districts): Maharashtra & Goa and Kolkata. More circles are expected to follow. 

Wi-Fi Calling is an integrated service that allows users to make and receive voice calls over a wireless internet connection such as home broadband, office broadband or public Wi-Fi. This should help users to make voice calls in areas with low network coverage.

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