Telcos Call TRAI’s Public WIFI Project a Threat to National Security

Telecom operators turned down the public WIFI model suggested by The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India stating that it will hugely impact the debt ridden industry and will compromise national security, PTI reports.

According to PTI, Based on existing rules for cyber cafes, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended that a new set of players to be called Pubic Data Office Aggregator (PDOA) should be allowed to resell internet services through yesteryears PCOs type of set-up that will be called Public Data Offices.

The regulator had recommended that like cyber cafes, which provide internet access to public after registering themselves, PDOA should be allowed to provision internet access services after registering themselves with the telecom department.

“…the proposal to sell internet services without a license,will be a complete bypass of present licensing framework, detrimental to massive investments already made in spectrum, telecom infrastructure… Additionally, we believe it will seriously compromise national security,” COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said in a letter to telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan.

The Cellular Operators Association of India, whose member include Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone, Idea Cellular etc, has expressed disappointment on Trai’s recommendation and said that its implementation will lead to a non-level playing field between telecom operators who hold license and those who will provide internet service without license.

COAI said that internet services can be provided by a telecom licence holders only and the scope of PDOA recommended by Trai is similar to that of internet service provider license holder.

“Creation of last mile access, wireline or wireless, for the end customer to provide internet services has been permitted under the license. However, the same activity has now been proposed to be performed by the PDOAs,” Mathews said.

The COAI also stated that provision for PDOA, if implemented, will cause huge loss to government’s revenue.

“This would also lead to substantial loss to the exchequer as the PDOAs and PDOs would not pay any license fee or spectrum usage charge (SUC), or for that matter upfront payment for spectrum, to the government. Going down this path, it would only be fair and legally tenable if the government also exempts license fee and SUC for licensed operators,” Mathews said.

COAI said if the government feels that PDOAs should be allowed for rural areas and villages then it should be mandated through a license, PTI reports.

“Further, such incentive should not be limited only to PDOAs but should also be extended to all service providers… who provide internet services (both wired or wireless) in the rural areas rather than promoting a particular business model,” the director general said.

He added that revenue earned from the provision of internet service in rural areas for all service providers should be exempted from regulatory levies.

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