• The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved the proposal of Department of Telecom (DoT) to proliferate Broadband through Public Wi-Fi networks under the framework of the Prime Minister’s Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI) on 9th December 2020.
  • According to Statista, public WiFi hotspots per million population in the UK, US and China are respectively 175, 50 and 75 times that of India. Noting the lack of public WiFi infrastructure in India, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) initiated the discussions on an open WiFi access protocol in 2016-17 and conducted many stakeholder meetings. The TRAI recommended an open common specification referred to as “WiFi Access Network Interface (WANI)” in 2017.
  • The WANI exhibits characteristics of a Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) to provide affordable broadband. Subsequently, the Centre launched the Prime Minister WANI (PM-WANI) scheme in December 2020 for improving affordable Wi-Fi access to people. The model envisioned setting up of public Wi-Fi hotspots in Public Data Offices (PDOs) by local entrepreneurs with methods for monetising Internet access and at the same time providing affordable Internet access to users. However, the PMWANI scheme has met with only limited success.
  • This framework takes forward the goal of National Digital Communications Policy, 2018 (NDCP) of creating a robust digital communications infrastructure. The PM-WANI framework envisages provision of Broadband through Public Wi-Fi Hotspot providers.
  • It will consist of elements such as Public Data Office (PDO), Public Data Office Aggregator (PDOA), App Provider and Central Registry.
  • Public Data Office will establish, maintain, and operate PM-WANI compliant Wi-Fi Hotspots and provide last-mile connectivity to deliver Broadband services to subscribers by procuring internet bandwidth from telecom service providers and/ or internet service providers.
  • Public Data Office Aggregator will provide aggregation services such as authorization and accounting to PDOs, thereby facilitating PDOs in providing services to the end consumer.
  • App Provider will develop an application to register users and discover and display PM-WANI compliant Wi-Fi Hotspots in the proximity for accessing the internet service and also authenticate the potential Broadband users.
  • Central Registry will maintain the details of App Providers, PDOAs, and PDOs. It is currently maintained by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT).
  • Any entity can be a PDO. NO REGISTRATION will be required. It will install Wi-Fi Access point. Any Village level entrepreneur (VLE), Grocery shops owner, Tea stalls, Kirana shops, Vegetable shops, restaurant owner etc. all can become PDO and start selling internet broadband over Wi-Fi.

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