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Wireless b'band speed: TRAI invites transparency & customer awareness ideas

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India wants stakeholders to give their views on ensuring transparency and customer awareness regarding data speeds under wireless broadband plans and has suggested various tools that may be deployed for measuring data speeds

In a Consultation Paper on ‘Data Speed under Wireless Broadband Plans’, the Authority has asked stakeholders to respond to nine questions raised by it by 20 June with counter-comments if any by 13 July.

At the outset, it says the National Telecom Policy of 2012 (NTP-2012) has the vision of Broadband on Demand and envisages leveraging telecom infrastructure to enable all citizens and businesses, both in rural and urban areas, to participate in the Internet and web economy thereby ensuring equitable and inclusive development across the nation. It provides the enabling framework for enhancing India’s competitiveness in all spheres of the economy

Wireless access networks are the main source of delivering broadband in the country. Global mobile subscriptions are growing around 5 percent year-on-year. According to the Ericsson’s mobility report, India grew the most in terms of net additions during the third quarter of 2016 by adding 15 million connections. These figures have increased substantially in the last few quarters. Out of the total 236.09 million broadband subscribers in the country as of 31st December 2016 approximately 92.32% - 217.95 million subscribers - are through wireless access.

According to a GSMA report titled ‘The Mobile Economy, India 2016’, at the end of June 2016, 616 million unique users subscribed to mobile services in India, making it the second largest mobile market in the world. Almost half the country’s population now subscribes to a mobile service. The report suggests that improving affordability; falling device prices and better network coverage aided by operator investment will help deliver over 330 million new unique subscribers by 2020, taking the penetration rate to 68%. It further adds that as more users migrate to high-speed broadband, mobile data traffic is expected to grow 12-fold between 2015 and 2020, at a CAGR of 63%.

Data usage by GSM users has already shown an unprecedented growth in the recent months from an average usage of 236MB per month in September, 2016 to 884 MB per month in December 2016.

Along with this, the composition of revenues earned by operators is also changing. Mobile operators in India have so far reported limited revenue contribution from data services, generating 17% of service revenues at the end of 2015. This is forecast to increase to 23% by 2020.

The Broadband Policy of 2004 defined broadband as “An ‘always-on’ data connection that is able to support interactive services including Internet access and has the capability of the minimum download speed of 256 kilo bits per second (kbps) to an individual subscriber from the Point of Presence (POP) of the service provider intending to provide broadband service where multiple such individual broadband connections are aggregated and the subscriber is able to access these interactive services including the Internet through this POP. The interactive services will exclude any services for which a separate license is specifically required, for example, real-time voice transmission, except to the extent that it is presently permitted under ISP license with Internet Telephony”.

The questions raised in the paper, which discusses the various initiatives that have been taken by the Authority in relation to broadband speeds in India and their current status and provides a summary of the international experience on similar issues, are:

Q1: Is the information on wireless broadband speeds currently being made available to consumers is transparent enough for making informed choices? Q2: If it is difficult to commit a minimum download speed, then could average speed be specified by the service providers? What should be the parameters for calculating average speed?

Q3: What changes can be brought about to the existing framework on wireless broadband tariff plans to encourage better transparency and comparison between plans offered by different service providers? Q4: Is there a need to include/delete any of the QoS parameters and/or revise any of the benchmarks currently stipulated in the Regulations?

Q5: Should disclosure of average network performance over a period of time or at peak times including through broadband facts/labels be made mandatory? Q6: Should standard application/ websites be identified for mandating comparable disclosures about network speeds?

Q7: What are the products/technologies that can be used to measure actual end-user experience on mobile broadband networks? At what level should the measurements take place (e.g., on the 26 device, network node)? Q8: Are there any legal, security, privacy or data sensitivity issues with collecting device level data?

a) If so, how can these issues be addressed? b) Do these issues create a challenge for the adoption of any measurement tools?

Q9: What measures can be taken to increase awareness among consumers about wireless broadband speeds, availability of various technological tools to monitor them and any potential concerns that may arise in the process?

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