Incidentally, TRAI is in the process of fixing the call drop issues that attracted comments from India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others.
While poor quality voice service affects the life line of India, poor broadband impacts the business and future generations’ aspiration to move ahead in life. This means both high quality broadband and voice services are important for Indians.
One of the suggestions of TRAI to fix the poor quality voice services is by imposing penalty on Indian telecoms if there is any call drops. The immediate action required from telecoms is to increase spend on telecom infrastructure roll outs, according to TRAI.
The solution to improve broadband coverage and existing services lies in the hands of telecoms. They need to expand broadband coverage to more towns and cities. At the same time, they need to make more investment in broadband networks.
At present, wired broadband is a neglected area for telecoms.
India has nearly 15.7 million wired broadband subscribers and 92.7 million wireless broadband users against 980.81 million wireless subscribers till June 2015, according to TRAI. Both wired and wireless broadband subscriber base are growing slow due to lack of investment in broadband segment. While telecoms such as Airtel, BSNL, etc. talk about their investment in wireless business, they are cagey about sharing investment plans for broadband infrastructure.
The top five wired broadband service providers are BSNL with 9.91 million users, Bharti Airtel has 1.47 million, MTNL has 1.13 million, Atria Convergence Technologies has 0.72 million and YOU Broadband has 0.46 million.
The five wireless broadband service providers are Bharti Airtel with 23.09 million users, Vodafone has 22.07 million, Idea Cellular has 16.67 million, Reliance Communications has 9.63 million and BSNL has 8.29 million.
Broadband issues cripple the business life of Indians. Since high quality broadband is not available in rural and small towns in India, doing business in remote areas is a big challenge for entrepreneurs in the country.
TRAI does not have a mechanism to influence telecoms to expand their broadband coverage to rural and small towns. Even in a city like Delhi, coverage of broadband by both private and government-owned telecoms is not up to the mark. Lack of proper response to customer complains immediately is another bottleneck. MTNL customers in Delhi and face “cable cut” for days and weeks. MTNL sends bill even if there is no broadband network to its customers.
Indian telecoms Bharti Airtel is currently expanding 4G LTE network to 300 plus towns. Considering the huge demand from bandwidth hungry Indians, 4G coverage in 300 plus towns is not enough to address the broadband coverage issue. 4G coverage of Airtel within the 300 towns is not adequate for seamless experience.
Reliance Jio Infocomm has promised us that it will offer adequate broadband coverage and speed to Indians. But Reliance Jio will be live after 2-4 quarters. Can TRAI bring more life to broadband users across the country?