By Prarthana Mitra
A mobile app will soon hook people to the public WiFi hotspot anywhere in the country. The Department of Telecommunications announced on Thursday that it will be launched imminently, at the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi.
The app will enable users to seamlessly access any public network with a single click, one-time login and authentication. It is also believed to offer cheaper and faster internet compared to mobile data and help actualise the objectives of the national digital communications policy approved by the Union cabinet last month.
According to the policy, India should have WiFi coverage throughout its length and breadth in the next few years – 5 million public Wi-Fi hotspots by 2020 and 10 million by 2022 to be specific. At present, the country has less than 40,000 such hotspots.
Why it matters
In the age of connectivity, problems like poor network, call drops or data lagging can be solved by offloading mobile data traffic on to Wi-Fi networks, which helps decongest the network in high-density areas.
“The app has been designed so that users can get on board the public Wi-Fi through one-time authentication and does not have to repeat the entire process for accessing the next Wi-Fi hotspot. The design also ensures back-end interoperability between telecom service providers, which means that if I am a mobile customer of a particular operator, I could seamlessly access Wi-Fi hotspots run by other operators as well,” sources close to the development told Mint.
Public WiFi is beneficial only if it’s affordable and to that end, pay-as-you-go data packs will be sold shortly. Easy authentication is a step in right direction, and was conceived based on recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Trai set interoperable standards to authenticate the user and payment mechanism to achieve unbundling of operations so that public Wi-Fi hotspots can be provided in a seamless manner, in a grid situation.
Here’s what led up to this
Last week, the telecom ministry delicensed the 5GHz band, thus improving the capacity of Wi-Fi spectrum. The new public Wi-Fi hotspots will be powered by BharatNet, also known as the National Optical Fibre Network, which intends to connect 250,000 gram panchayats with rural broadband.
The government has already completed laying optical fibre across 100,000 gram panchayats in the first phase and aims to complete the second phase by March 2019 when it will connect an additional 150,000 gram panchayats with the help of private sector participation.
Earlier this year, the Telecom Commission agreed to set up public data offices (PDOs) to boost public Wi-Fi hotspots and further create employment opportunities to moderate the PDOs. These “pay-as-you-go” PDOs will buy data from telecom or internet service providers and resell sachet-sized data packs, thus solving key issues with regard to the capacity and availability of public WiFi.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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