While Wi-Fi penetration in Tier-I and Tier-II cities is considerably high at 74 per cent, many consumers are falling into a WiFi exclusion trap, a study by research and advocacy firm Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) has pointed out.
Calling the inability to benefit from a home Wi-Fi connection, due to cost, awareness and availability constraints as a WiFi exclusion trap, the study said many consumers had been unable to install WiFi as a result.
The study comes at a time when the government is deliberating on whether to reserve the 6 GHz spectrum band solely for mobile internet like 5G or for Wi-Fi use. It pointed out that of those who did not have a Wi-Fi connection at home, it was found that 63 percent wanted to explore the possibility of installing it.
"Although most families in rural areas had the first dimension of the digital divide, i.e. physical access to an internet-connected device, many family members, particularly women in the family did not have a material access to such devices. The study thereby recommends efforts to extract consumers from this trap," the report said.
It also advocated for Wi-Fi at newer bands being made available. "It can help extract those in the trap by providing more public Wi-Fi access points, reliable and multiple connections with additional bandwidth and by leveraging potential for enhancement of income generation," it said.
The study also found 49 percent consumers preferred 6 GHz over existing 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz, based on technical parameters of each band.
Control over the 6 GHz band is hotly contested by telecom service providers such as Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, and WiFi providers. This is because mid bands provide a balance between wide coverage and capacity, which is critical for the rapid and cost-efficient deployments of 5G. 6 GHz is also the last remaining mid-band spectrum range where city wide coverage can be provided with mobile networks.
The Department of Telecommunications has till now reserved the 6GHz spectrum range and it was not available in the last round of 5G auctions. The Centre is currently in the process of deciding which sector to reserve the spectrum for. A panel formed under the Wireless Planning and coordination wing of the Department of Telecommunications is considering the issue.
While many countries such as the United States, Canada and Brazil have made the entire 6 GHz band available for license-exempt use, countries like Australia, United Kingdom and Japan have made the band partially available for such use.