What TRAI ignored in broadband directions to telecoms

EWE TEL broadband network in Germany
When the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday released draft directions on delivering broadband services, it missed several facts that negatively impact consumers.

India has 16.13 million wired broadband subscribers and 104.28 million wireless broadband users till September 2015, according to TRAI.

The monthly growth of wired broadband is 0.78, while wireless broadband growth was 3.37 percent in September 2015.

What TRAI’s missing

The top five wired broadband service providers are BSNL (9.93 million), Bharti Airtel (1.58 million), MTNL (1.13 million), Atria Convergence (0.80 million) and YOU Broadband (0.48 million).

The top five wireless broadband service providers are Bharti Airtel (26.61 million), Vodafone (23.78 million), Idea Cellular (19.58 million), Reliance Communications Group (10.93 million) and BSNL (9.01 million).

First, all Indians want telecom network operators to guarantee a minimum broadband speed. Today’s broadband draft does not ask TSPs to mention a minimum broadband speed guaranteed to their subscribers.

Second, the broadband directions set out by TRAI are also not clear about penalty on telecoms service providers if they are not delivering promised quality in broadband services. Recently, TRAI announced compensation to mobile users if they face call drops. There is no mechanism to broadband users to receive compensation if they get poor quality of broadband services.

Third, broadband users do not want to make any payment if there is no service for a certain period. In several occasions, broadband of telecoms — especially MTNL and BSNL — is out of order due to incidents such as cable theft, calamities, etc. Even if broadband service is not offered, a subscriber is forced to make payment.

Fourth, most of the telecoms are not providing quality wireless broadband services in majority of Indian towns. Users buy broadband data cards with high expectations. If they travel out of their towns, the chances of getting enough broadband coverage is very bleak. Will broadband operators compensate their customers?

Fifth, can TRAI ask telecom network operators to offer broadband services — wired or wireless — in all villages in the country. Access to broadband should be the right of every Indian.

TRAI’s draft recommendations on broadband

In the draft directions, TRAI has asked all telecom network operators rendering fixed broadband services to state the data usage limit with specified speed on their website and in all advertisements published through any media.

TRAI also asked TSPs to provide the speed of broadband connection up to a specified data usage limit and the speed of broadband connection beyond the data usage limit.

For mobile broadband, the telecom regulator said the data usage limit with specified technology (3G or 4G) for providing services has to be specified.

The TRAI also said the service providers need to mention the technology (3G or 4G) offered for providing broadband services up to a specified data usage limit and the technology (2G, 3G or 4G) offered for providing broadband services beyond the data usage limit.

The regulator also asked the service providers to ensure that download speed of broadband service provided to the fixed broadband subscriber is not reduced below 512 kbps in any broadband tariff plan.

It also asked the service provider to alert subscriber when his data usage reaches 80 percent of the data usage limit under his plan and ensure that such alert is provided to the fixed broadband subscriber at each login after data usage crosses the said limit of 80 percent.

“Send alert to the subscriber either through SMS or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) on his mobile number, registered with the service provider or to his registered email address, each time when the data usage by the subscriber reaches 80 percent and hundred percent of the data usage limit under his plan – and furnish compliance report by the (date),” said the draft direction from TRAI.

The TRAI has sought comments from the stakeholders in this matter.

We are all hoping that India broadband story will take off. It’s time for TRAI and telecom minister to take up the broadband matter seriously. Broadband will ensure better life to us.

Baburajan K
[email protected]