Countering “misinformed concerns” in certain sections over the viability of Public Wi-Fi model, BIF argued that numerous proofs of concept have been performed by the government for several years. Extensive trials were carried out over a period involving the government’s own premier R&D institution – C-DoT, in conjunction with startups and entrepreneurs in the small and medium enterprises sector, with support from internet services providers.
Even as indications suggest that mobile data tariffs may rise in the near future, the demand for floor tariffs on data services by the concerned players to ensure the sustainability of operations would also increase the cost differential further.
“Wi-Fi hotspots would therefore continue to offer a more cost-effective option for the common man and could emerge as an affordable means for mass public connectivity,” Ramachandran said.
BIF said the new WANI public Wi-Fi framework holds the potential for over 20 million employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, besides boosting local manufacturing and broadband reach.
It would also provide tremendous impetus to Digital India and Atma-Nirbhar Bharat, BIF said.
The government recently 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.
BIF said usage trends of data services are witnessing a rise in heavy consumption, including video content streaming/downloads to the order of 70-80 per cent, which necessitates higher broadband capacities.
A recent analysis of Quality of Experience (QoE) requirements for distinct use cases reveal minimum upload and download speeds of 14 Mbps as essential for ensuring reliable video streaming and conferencing, which make up a significant proportion of Indian internet traffic.
“While the prevalent technology has added much value to the digitalisation of India when it comes to the critical aspects of capacity and performance, our Mobile Broadband speeds are barely 31 per cent of the global speeds. Wi-Fi, in conjunction or as a complement to Mobile Broadband, would help offload high data capacity requirements, deliver better QoE and higher broadband speeds,” BIF said.
It would be essential when catering to the surge in demand, and evolving quality requirements imposed by new applications and services.
Given the National Digital Communications Policy goals of creating 10 million Public Wi-Fi hotspots by 2022, and with the present number being merely at 0.35 million (all captive in nature), the Pradhan Mantri Wireless Access Network Interface (PM-WANI) Policy will result in the creation of enormous demand and scope for developing the components for this crucial pan-India activity.
“This presents a great opportunity to the local manufacturing and supply chain sectors for producing indigenous Wi-Fi equipment to cater to these millions of hotspots, providing a massive impetus to our national mission of ‘Atma-Nirbharta’,” BIF said.
The policy will result in the creation of millions of WiFi hotspots through unlicensed entities without the need for registration, payment of licence fees and having onerous statutory obligations thrust upon them.
It will proliferate across the country and especially in rural, remote and unconnected areas – thereby propelling socio-economic growth by providing employment opportunities for small, local and village-level entrepreneurs (VLEs), the Kirana stores, tea-shops and the likes, besides driving inclusion and rural digital connectivity.
“Even by a conservative estimate of each hotspot enabling 2-3 direct and indirect employment opportunities, the creation of 10 million hotspots as per the NDCP target by 2022, could potentially generate 20-30 million job opportunities in the small and medium scale sectors. This would be great succour to people in the COVID affected scenario, which has resulted in massive job losses,” Ramachandran added.
The model would help attract valuable investments into the sector, besides boosting indigenous manufacturing.
Further, the expected arrival of Wi-Fi 6 in the very near future will help deliver extremely high capacity, high speed, and highly-secure broadband services to the consumers. This will offer the potential to complement the future 5G rollout in the urban areas by offering similar services and amenities to the masses at large, BIF said.