Public Wi-Fi networks without licence violate law, says COAI

Public Wi-Fi networks without licence violate law, says COAI

The COAI has urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to review the Trai recommendation to allow public data office aggregators (PDOAs) and public data offices (PDOs) to provide internet through Wi-Fi without requiring a licence.

By: FE Bureau | New Delhi | Published: June 14, 2018 4:24 AM

The COAI has urged the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to review the Trai recommendation to allow public data office aggregators (PDOAs) and public data offices (PDOs) to provide internet through Wi-Fi without requiring a licence, which the industry body said violates the Indian Telegraph Act.

“Contrary to the well established licensing structure, Trai in its recommendation suggested that PDOAs and PDOs be allowed to provide internet access through Wi-Fi without taking a licence. Any such service will be in conflict with the existing framework. Moreover, such service will be in conflict with existing licensing framework,” COAI director general Rajan S Mathews said in a letter to telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan.

Public Wi-Fi networks or any network on any access technology is only permitted under a licence. According to the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, establishing, maintaining and working of telegraph requires a licence from the government, Mathews said.

At present, entities can provide internet access through unified licence (UL), unified access service licence (UASL), ISP licence or UL-VNO (Virtual Network Operator) licence.

“More importantly, establishing public Wi-Fi networks without licence will be illegal, being in violation of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885,” he cautioned.

Mathews said Trai’s recommendation will also adversely impact the level playing field as licensed operators have to pay levies such as license fee, spectrum usage charge and ensure adherence to various regulatory and security requirements.

The COAI also urged Sundararajan not to de-license V band (57GHz to 64GHz). The V band is considered to have good data-carrying properties over small distance. It can be leveraged for data back haul requirement from small cells of urban 4G networks and can be flexibly installed on street-level furniture. In many countries, V Band is treated by the regulator as a licence-exempt band. Trai has recommended it for indoor licence-exempt applications and outdoor light licensed use.

“In this regard, we would like to submit that allowing entities to establish public Wi-Fi networks without taking any licence and further delicensing of the spectrum for access would be a double hit to the existing operators as not only the licence, but also the spectrum will be provided for free to entities like PDOs/PDOAs to provide internet access,” Mathews said.

While the COAI, whose members include Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, has been urging the DoT that spectrum in E and V bands be allocated only through auctions, the Broadband India Forum, which represents tech companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, has been advocating de-licensing of the bands.

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