Wifi Access Network Interface (WANI)

Context

The Indian telecom regulator, Trai, recently proposed setting up a Wifi Access Network Interface (WANI) architecture with the ability to delink telecom infrastructure from access services.

About

  • A single interoperable platform that will enable the delivery of data and WiFi services to all Indians is the heart of India’s new Digital Communications Policy (2018–2022).
  • TRAI is inviting participation from companies/entities in the country to help set up a nation-wide interoperable WiFi network in form of Public Data Offices (PDOs) across the country.
  • The new pilot project named Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (WANI) will run on a partnership model.
  • Small entrepreneurs and shop owners can set up WiFi hotspots (or PDOs) by acquiring bandwidth from multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and re-selling bandwidth as data to end customers at a cheaper rate.
  • The pilot project of WANI will accept any company, proprietorship, societies, NGOs, etc. to help set up paid public WiFi access points across the country using a shared model.
  • These companies will be able to purchase bandwidth from Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs)—a bandwidth aggregator which aggregates spectrum from multiple ISPs and provide them to PDO owners at cheaper rates.
  • In this manner, the cost of setting up WiFi infrastructure will be shared without PDOs requiring to register for a telecom license.
  • Wifire, PayTM, Linq and C-DOT have created WANI enabled mobile apps for consumers.
  • WANI Mission: Existing ISPs and telcos do not have any form of incentive push to deliver WiFi services in rural locations. Hence in addition to existing service providers, small providers can also enter the public Wi-Fi ecosystem and have the capability and incentives to provide public Wi-Fi on a small scale.
  • WANI vision: Under the framework, an entity setting up a Wi-Fi hot spot need not be responsible for its marketing, customer acquisition, payments and settlements. Unbundling creates efficiencies and customer convenience. There can be multiple payment mechanisms, multiple authentication mechanisms, but the idea is there should be a single-click on-boarding on the Wi-Fi hot spot.

How does WANI work?

  • WANI is publicly open WiFi framework.
  • Users will have to do one time KYC within WANI enabled application.
  • Whenever WANI enabled application discovers and connects to a WANI compliant hotspot, application automatically sends a “digitally signed” authentication token.
  • When audit is required, token can be uniquely mapped to a KYC user making it strongly traceable in case of incidents.
  • Consumers get single-click connection
  • Discovery is simple as app allows users to discover nearby WANI compliant Access Points.
  • User apps can provide location specific searches and allow users to discover “nearby” WiFi hotspots without being the range.
  • App can allow features such as “favorites”, “most recent”, etc. for easy selection of regular connections.
  • App providers can offer value added services such as availability, average speed, customer rating, etc.
  • Users can add multiple devices into their profile to allow single click connect of all devices into single WiFi session.
  • There is interoperability as users can choose any WANI enabled application.
  • Users can setup profile with preferred Payment Gateway to collect and make secure payments.
  • User can use any WANI enabled consumer app for KYC and use it to connect (and optionally pay).
  • Today, many hotspots operate on the principle of “OTP” (one-time passwords) which provide access for a limited time. Such hazards will be done away with the WANI architechture.
  • There is no credential exchange.
  • There are cheap sachet-sized packs, as WiFi usage is to be sold to users for consumption in sachet format in denominations of Rs 2 to Rs 20, etc for 1 GB.
  • WANI is a good example of unbundling/disaggregation—separation of the access from the underlying network through its platform.

‘Public Data Offices (PDOs)’ basically have features of Public Call Offices (PCOs) but it aggregates mobile data instead of providing cheap voice calls. Small shops, bakeries, eateries, café outlets, cinema halls, museums, residential builders, are examples of Public Data Offices or PDOs.

‘Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs)’ are PDOs who aggregate WiFi hotspots, bandwidth.

‘App Providers’ are any mobile app company that can provide and manage eKYC (via mobile no. or Aadhaar) as well as digital payment providers.

‘Hotspot providers’ are any domestic or foreign company manufacturing or providing WiFi/hotspot hardware, software services.

Benefits of WANI

  • WANI is fully interoperable, secure, collaborative, multi-provider and unified KYC.
  • Multi-device support with single-click secure user authentication.
  • Users can use any preferred app for discovering and connecting to any WANI compliant hotspots with single-click.
  • Users can use cash or any valid electronic payment mechanisms including upcoming UPI e-mandates
  • Entrepreneurs can create “WiFi in a box” software/hardware stack.
  • Allows any SME or local entities to set up public paid WiFi hotspots using the WiFi in a box package.
  • Allows last mile connectivity to be bridged in India, especially in rural areas.
  • WANI dismantles monopoly, increase innovation, and pass benefits to the end user.
  • Offers payment integration as WANI could be directly integrated with all kinds of payments providers including wallets, credit/debit cards, net banking, and UPI.
  • WANI offers huge employment potential.
  • WANI data is expected to be cheaper than mobile data since it has no spectrum or expensive infrastructure costs.
  • It is a robust fall-back for failing or underperforming mobile networks.
  • It will enable access to development and livelihood interventions that persons in rural areas
  • The cost-benefits of seamlessly connecting to alternate networks like WiFi or IoT will allow operators to save on enormous duplication costs.
  • WANI will enable Indian IoT systems to be mobile but also allow users of IoT systems to economically access alternate networks—very essential in a country like ours, where networks lack ubiquity either in terms of coverage or quality.
  • WANI architecture will enable India to adopt network slicing and other advanced features of 5G while maintaining the security and privacy of its citizenry.
  • From a consumer perspective, quality will be enhanced while competition will help lower the price
  • Studies estimate a positive impact of >$10 billion annually to the Indian economy.

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