Info-tech

Telcos not for raising minimum broadband speed

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on November 16, 2020 Published on November 15, 2020

India is ranked 129 among 138 nations in terms of mobile broadband speed

Operators tell TRAI 512 kbps is adequate; say availability, affordability are the key

Even as consumers demand high speed and reliable broadband services, telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, are opposing a proposal by the regulator to increase the minimum speed from the existing 512 kbps.

The operators have told the regulator that the current priority should be on ensuring availability and affordability of broadband services, instead of mandating higher speeds.

“With the dismal status of fixed-line broadband infrastructure, the first and foremost focus should be to enhance broadband availability and affordability via various available media. With this perspective, the existing definition of broadband is working fine and should be continued with for the next few years till the broadband infrastructure becomes omnipresent,” Airtel said in its submission to a consultation paper issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Global index

As per Ookla speed test global index June 2020 report, India is ranked 129th among 138 nations in terms of mobile broadband speed and 75th among 174 countries in fixed line broadband. While the highest mobile broadband speed, experienced in South Korea, is around 100Mbps, the global average speed for mobiles is 34 Mbps. In India, the average broadband speed is around 13 Mbps but speeds are erratic depending on the users’ location.

Under the existing rule, the operators can get away with low-speed services as long as they maintain speeds of just 512 kbps. This rule was brought in by the Department of Telecommunications DoT in 2013 when there were no 3G or 4G services. The National Digital Communications Policy 2018 has set a target of providing universal broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps to every citizen. But the operators are in no mood to commit to higher speeds.

Defining broadband

“In the present situation, any definition based on speed has lost its relevance. This is because the market is already offering speeds that are several times higher based on the demands and requirements of customers. The speeds are currently very much a critical part of the definition of “technology” and hence a separate definition based on the speed is actually not at all required,” said Vodafone Idea in its submission to the TRAI.

Reliance Jio, which has been at the forefront of bringing broadband to the wider masses, has also taken a non-committal stand. It has told the regulator that, while the threshold speeds may be redefined, it is best to leave it to the market to cater to the consumer demand instead of mandating speed by regulation.

This comes even as the US regulator FCC has revised the definition of broadband with a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps. Even Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has specified 5 Mbps minimum speed.

Nasscom’s stand

IT industry body Nasscom has supported the need to revise the definition of broadband.

“The current definition of ‘broadband’, as notified by the DoT and provided in the Quality of Service of Broadband Service Regulations 2006, is not aligned with the goal and visions established by the NDCP which envisages broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps,” Nasscom said, adding that minimum speed for fixed-line broadband should be fixed at 4 Mbps and mobile broadband can be linked to specific technologies.

“We recommend that for mobile broadband too, the same definition, as suggested for fixed line, with minimum speed criteria be adopted. However, if it is not found feasible to provide such a minimum for mobile broadband due to technology limitations, the definition may be technology-dependent,” Nasscom said.

Broadband India Forum said that a network must comply with the requirement to provide 2 Mbps download and upload speeds to be considered a broadband connection, regardless of the medium or technology used to deliver the service.

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Published on November 15, 2020
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