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Trai planning a UPI-like system for public Wi-Fi hot spots


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: TRAI, Unified Payments Interface, WANI system

Mains level: Efforts for ensuring universal internet coverage in India


Policy for public Wi-Fi hotspots

  1. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) aims to develop a framework similar to the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to aid the rollout of public Wi-Fi hotspots in the country
  2. It has been conducting pilots for Wi-Fi hotspots in Noida and Bengaluru

A target of 5 lakh hotspots

  1. Department of telecommunications (DoT) which has separately set an ambitious target of deploying 500,000 Wi-Fi hotspots by December across the country from the current 38,000

How will the system work?

  1. TRAI is working on a framework which will ensure that the Wi-Fi hotspots can be provided in a seamless manner, in a grid situation
  2. It will be prescribing interoperable standards to authenticate the user, payment mechanism, and unbundling (operations)
  3. What UPI is for the payment ecosystem, this framework will be for the Wi-Fi hotspot ecosystem
  4. Launched in 2016, UPI is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile app (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing and merchant payments under one hood

Draft design of public Wi-Fi network project

  1. In July last year, Trai issued a draft design of public Wi-Fi network project under which any entity with a valid permanent account number (PAN) would be allowed to set up public data offices (PDOs)
  2. The draft design also provided detailed technical specifications for compliance by various providers to ensure full Wi-Fi access network interface (WANI) system interoperability
  3. Trai had also recommended a central registry managed by either itself or DoT or an entity approved by either of them containing information about the PDOs

Cabinet approves easing spectrum cap


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Cabinet decision and its possible benefits for the telecom sector.


Cabinet decision on spectrum

  1. The Union Cabinet has approved relaxing the cap on spectrum holding by telcos
  2. This approval is expected to aid mergers and acquisitions in the sector
  3. The Cabinet has also given telcos the option to extend the time period for payment of spectrum bought in auction to 16 years from the present 10 years
  4. This is likely to help with the cash flow in the short to medium term, while adding Rs. 74,446 crore till 2034-35 to the government’s kitty due to no reduction in interest rates
  5. The government is hopeful that this move would encourage participation in future spectrum auctions

Possible benefits of this decision

  1. The decision based on the recommendations by the Inter Ministerial Group on stressed assets in the telecom sector
  2. It will facilitate investments, consolidation and enhance ease of doing business, said an official release

TRAI wants Jio rivals to pay Rs. 3,050 crore fine

  1. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommended a hefty penalty of Rs. 3,050 crore on top three telcos – Airtel, Vodafone and Idea
  2. The fine is for violating their license agreement and denial of interconnection to new player Reliance Jio
  3. TRAI stated that these violations are against public interest

[op-ed snap] Bandwidth for growth

  1. Theme: Disappointing response to the recent auction of 2350 megahertz of telecom spectrum.
  2. Reasons: The high indebtedness of India’s telcos and the high base price set by the government.
  3. The positives of Indian telecom sector: A billion consumers, endless minutes of talk-time a day and low tariffs.
  4. Concerns: The quality of service on offer is deteriorating, both in data and voice.
  5. In many areas, networks that should operate at 65 per cent capacity are working at 95 per cent due to high congestion, leading to poor voice services.
  6. Despite the new spectrum with telcos, the sheer volume of voice traffic means that improvements in quality may be marginal. Similar issues plague data traffic.
  7. This could have a bearing on the quality of connectivity and the reach of several of the government’s ambitious programmes, from Digital India to direct benefit transfer.
  8. The way ahead: The government needs to learn from this episode and free the bureaucracy from the fear of the auditor and the investigator soon, for better outcomes in all its plans.

Ministry unveils portal to check call drops

  1. Made by: The Telecom Regulator Authority of India
  2. Functions: Will allow mobile phone users to check the call drop rate, network coverage and call quality on their operators’ network
  3. Transparency portal: Bring in transparency about the network performance as consumers will be able to see if the call drop situation has changed
  4. Further plan: TRAI is likely to come out with a consultation paper on net neutrality and their final view on the issue of free data by the end of this month

TRAI seeks views on use of public Wi-Fi networks

  1. News: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a consultation paper, seeking views on the use of public Wi-Fi networks for expansion of broadband in the country
  2. Aim: Likely to result in faster Internet speeds, while reducing data costs by up to 90% for consumers
  3. TRAI pointed out that the state of Wi-Fi hotspots was not encouraging in India, significantly lower compared to countries like France, US, and UK

Call drop test in Sikkim, Darjeeling

  1. News: All telecom operators failed in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) call drop test in Sikkim and Darjeeling
  2. Exposing poor state of mobile services, TRAI said that most of the calls could not be connected on their networks
  3. Penalty: TRAI has fixed a penalty of up to Rs 2 lakh for poor mobile services, including call drops
  4. This penalty kicks in for more than 2% call drops in a quarter in 1 telecom circle

TRAI dedicated to quality service delivery

  1. TRAI is looking at various options to ensure that telecom operators work to improve service quality, including reviewing call drop parameter which is set at 2%
  2. It rolled out a dedicated website for publishing result of test drive that it conducts
  3. To make it easier for consumers to file a compliant against telemarketers, TRAI also unveiled ‘DND Services’ mobile application
  4. TRAI has developed a mobile App for easy registration of Unsolicited Commercial Complaints (UCC) to the service providers
  5. Currently, consumers can log complain about messages and calls from telemarketers through toll free number 1909

TRAI seeks more power

  1. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has approached the government seeking powers to impose penalty in order to ensure quality of service from telecom operators
  2. Background: This follows the Supreme Court quashing the TRAI’s regulation to impose penalty on operators for call drops, calling it ‘arbitrary’

SC quashes TRAI’s call drop rules

  1. Context: SC has given order to remove TRAI’s call drop regulation
  2. SC: Regulation is arbitrary, intention is to penalize service provider rather than ensure quality service
  3. Assumption apparent in Telecom Consumers Protection (Ninth Amendment) Regulations, 2015 is incorrect
  4. Assumption: Every call drop is deficiency of service provided by service provider
  5. SC asked parliament to frame law on the lines of U.S. Administrative Procedure Act

Cabinet nod for liberalisation of spectrum at TRAI prices

  1. What: TRAI recoomended prices will be taken as provisional prices wherever administratively (not auctioned) allocated spectrum is available
  2. Balance: after actual auction, the balance will be taken
  3. Why: because market determined price is not available at that moment
  4. Benefits: it would yield the exchequer Rs.1,300 crore and would also lead to better utilisation of spectrum

Centre may propose solution in call drops stand-off

  1. Context: TRAI regulation made the service provider liable to compensate consumers for call drops
  2. News: The govt may propose a solution in the SC to end the impasse between the TRAI and major telecos over the new regulations
  3. The telecom operators argued that 2015 regulations would affect the orderly growth of the sector and make it impossible for them to plan their businesses

Delhi HC upholds TRAI order to compensate users for call drops

  1. Background: Earlier, TRAI had ordered that every originating telecom service provider is made liable to credit the calling consumer by 1 rupee for each call drop within its network for a maximum of 3 call drops/day
  2. Later, the telecom operators had challenged the the order
  3. News: The Delhi HC decision makes it mandatory for cellular operators to compensate subscribers for call drops
  4. Impact: Telecom operators may end up paying around 1,000-1,500 crore in a year, if networks are not improved

Adopt open source for connectivity: TRAI

Any technology that is deployed for connectivity must be interoperable, says TRAI chief

  1. The telecom regulator hinted that technology-driven connectivity ventures such as Google and Facebook would be acceptable, only if they followed an open source framework
  2. Facebook is working on a venture that deploys drones in remote and rural areas to provide Internet connectivity
  3. Google’s Project Loon envisages the use of helium-filled balloons to provide data connectivity in remote regions
  4. Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter using a wireless communications technology called 4G
  5. The two are trying these approaches as alternative models to reach data connectivity aerially to users

TRAI rules in favour of Net neutrality

TRAI may review these regulations after a period of 2 years.

  1. No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content
  2. This effectively prohibiting Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero platform by Airtel in their current form
  3. Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted
  4. Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified

Call drops persist, finds TRAI audit

  1. TRAI has revealed that there has been virtually no decrease in call drops and improvement in the quality of mobile network coverage in recent months
  2. This is despite the govt’s tough posture on the issue
  3. The telecom regulator has been auditing and assessing their Quality of Service through independent agencies
  4. Network coverage improved a bit in New Delhi and Mumbai, but saw no improvements in Kolkata and other cities
  5. The audit agencies conduct sample drive tests across various cities in the country to assess coverage quality

TRAI for PPP model for Bharat Net Project

The regulator says Central and State govts. can be anchor clients of the project.

  1. Bharat Net seeks to connect all of India’s households, particularly in rural areas, through broadband by 2017, forming the backbone of the government’s ambitious Digital India programme.
  2. At present, a special purpose vehicle, Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), under the telecom ministry is handling the roll out of optical fibre network.
  3. A PPP model that aligns private incentives with long-term service delivery in the vein of the Build-Own-Operate Transfer/Build-Operate-Transfer models of implementation.
  4. The regulator has also suggested that contract period should be of 25 years, which can be further extended.
  5. The funding should be done to bridge the loss incurred due to higher operational expenses and lower commercial accruals.

The trouble with spectrum pricing

The regulator’s recommendation holds risks for an industry that serves a crucial socio-economic objective.

  1. TRAI recommended very high reserve price for auction of spectrum in 700 MHZ band.
  2. This band has high performance efficiency and utility in improving and expanding high-speed wireless broadband services across rural areas.
  3. But high pricing of a public asset may end up having the exact opposite effect:.
  4. It could make a scarce resource so expensive that its meaningful utilisation is compromised, thus unable to serve the larger public good.
  5. Very high per unit price realisation, while possibly helping meet immediate fiscal needs, would only bleed the industry of resources.
  6. High price of spectrum would also affect private investment in network expansion and infrastructure.
  7. The financial viability of the industry is crucial both for private investment and for the government to earn recurring revenues.

Trai wants auction of all available spectrum

The move is likely to put additional burden on telecom firms already stretched after spending on 4G and the 2015 spectrum auction.

  1. India’s telecom regulator has suggested the government auction Rs.6 trillion worth of airwaves, more than five times the value of spectrum sold in the previous auction.
  2. A move that may, if accepted, increase the burden on the already overstretched finances of the telecom operators.
  3. The Trai has recommended auctioning of all the available spectrum, including airwaves in the 700-megahertz (MHz) band.
  4. The Trai recommendations are part of a pricing exercise that the regulator conducts prior to every auction.
  5. To determine the minimum price at which the airwaves should be sold.

DoT to seek regulator’s views on spectrum reforms

  1. The Department of Telecom will seek TRAI’s views on the liberalisation of 800 MHz spectrum in circles where a market determined price is not available.
  2. The govt. has already issued guidelines to liberalise the administratively allotted 2G spectrum.
  3. This allowed operators to offer latest mobile services, including 4G, using the same radio waves.
  4. The govt. will levy latest auction determined price on the spectrum to be liberalised.

Call drops decline after Govt. steps in, says Prasad

  1. The govt’s intervention has led to a decline in frequent call drops faced by mobile phone users.
  2. The private operators have installed over 22,000 new cell sites between July and October.
  3. The problem of call drops have improved in New Delhi but operators still didn’t meet the quality parameters of less that 2%.
  4. A total of 18.33 lakh mobile sites are being operated by telecom service providers across the country.

Call drop penalty to stay for now, says TRAI Chief

  1. TRAI said, regulations are valid as of now and operators should ready their systems to comply with them from January 1.
  2. The regulator will examine the issue raised by the industry, post which a final decision will be taken.
  3. An impression is being created that the authority has imposed this regulation without considering the technical feasibility of its operation.
  4. Authority will examine legally if it can review the decision or not and then decide the course of action.

Soon you will get Re. 1 for call drops

  1. Call drop occurs after voice call is interrupted or disconnected before it is completed after being successfully established.
  2. Thus, it can be said that it represents telecom operator’s inability to maintain a successfully established call prior to their normal completion.
  3. Call drop may occur if signal strength of mobile tower of telecom operator goes below the minimum acceptable single to make a call.
  4. TRAI has made it mandatory for telecom operators to compensate consumers by Rs.1 for call drops with effect from 1 January 2016.

Call drops: TRAI plans to impose fines

TRAI’s service quality parameters includes call drop, availability of mobile towers, time taken for a call to connect, network congestion, voice quality and network related issues.

  1. TRAI raised the penalty on telecom operators to up to Rs. 2 lakh for poor mobile service quality.
  2. The penalty would apply if the operators are unable to meet the benchmark set for the quality of service in 2 or more subsequent quarters.
  3. The penalty will kick-in if call drops in a quarter average more than 2% of the total traffic in a telecom circle.
  4. Consumer-related issues include complaint redressal, refund of wrongly charged money, access to call centre. etc.

DoT issues guidelines: Telcos can now start spectrum trading

The spectrum trading notification said that all access spectrum bands earmarked for access services by the licensor (DoT) will be treated as tradable spectrum bands

  1. The department of telecommunications (DoT) notified guidelines relating to spectrum trading, which will help mobile operators buy and sell spectrum from one another.
  2. It enables some weaker operators to smoothly exit business or reorganise their entire business model,
  3. The stronger ones can increase their spectrum bank which will help them provide better services.
  4. Now, spectrum can be traded between two telecom companies with only outright transfer of right to use it from the seller to the buyer.
  5. Trading will be permitted only on a pan-LSA (licensed service area) basis.

Call drops raise questions about digital india

Let’s analyse the fact about the telecom infrastructure of telcos.

# Present capacity – 5,50,000 towers
# Current requirement – 1,00,000 towers

What are the other challenges ?

  1. The major problem is that there is no uniform national policy on the setting up of these towers.
  2. International comparison suggest that though big metro’s have 2.2 towers/square-km, but Delhi/Mumbai faces a heavy load, as compared to other international counterparts.
  3. Though cell phone towers acts as boosters & help radio waves travel further, but they can interface if so many towers are established.
  4. Shortage of spectrum – International comparison
    • A telecom company in India have only 12 MHz of spectrum, while the global average is 40 MHz.
    • This means Indian telecom companies have less spectral efficiency & need more towers.

Call drop menace to end in a month’s time

  1. The minister has advised the operators not to do anything to meet the growing demand for data services at the cost of voice.
  2. The telecom companies have started optimising their networks.
  3. TRAI has already initiated a consultative process to ascertain whether the operators need to monetarily compensate the consumers for system-generated call drops.

Telcos to blame for call drops: TRAI chief

  1. According to TRAI chairman, the remedy for the problem lies solely with the service providers.
  2. If service providers have more customers than they can satisfy, either they should put more infrastructure or not have the customers.
  3. He stressed that the regulator will not remain a silent spectator and will take proactive steps if the situation does not improve.
  4. As there is opposition from operators to make their operational capacity public, he said, it is an issue of transparency.
  5. TRAI is committed to consumer protection because they are weakest in terms of articulating their problems and grievances.

Cabinet nods for spectrum trading guidelines

  1. It will allow telecom companies to buy and sell spectrum.
  2. This is expected to help address the problem of shortage of spectrum, leading to better quality of services for mobile phone users.
  3. Government allowing companies to share airwaves in the same band so as to reduce call drops.
  4. Presently, spectrum can be acquired by companies only through government auctions.
  5. It gives ‘right of use’ to operators through auction. That right of use can be traded between two service providers.


Call drops: TRAI gives 15 days to operators

  1. Recent TRAI audit suggest that almost all operators have failed to comply with quality of service parameters.
  2. TRAI has asked operators to take immediate measures to address the issue.
  3. Their performance would be reviewed in 15 days to measure progress achieved.

Call drop: panel to submit report before Winter Session

  1. The issue of call drop will be taken up by the standing committee on information technology and telecom.
  2. Telecom companies are finding it difficult to install towers because of resistance from local people due to health fears related to tower radiation.
  3. The Department of Telecommunications should lay down certain guidelines on the number of telecom towers vis-a-vis subscriber base.
  4. Private operators will explain their challenges to the parliamentary committee.
  5. Telecom operators should ensure that they have infrastructure to serve customers better.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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