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Wanted: Real broadband

Ever wondered why your 256 kbps broadband connection never seemed like broadband? Well, it seems service providers have been short-changing consumers. Investigations by the telecom regulator, TRAI, have revealed that many operators had circumvented the rule by offering services with speeds “up to 256 kbps”. That is, a maximum speed of 256 kbps as against DoT’s rule of 256 kbps minimum.

     Print Edition: January 27, 2008

Ever wondered why your 256 kbps (kilobits per second) broadband connection never seemed like broadband? Well, it seems service providers have been short-changing consumers. As far back as 2004, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had issued guidelines that said the minimum speed for broadband must be 256 kbps. Subsequently investigations by the telecom regulator, TRAI, have revealed that many operators had circumvented the rule by offering services with speeds “up to 256 kbps”. That is, a maximum speed of 256 kbps as against DoT’s rule of 256 kbps minimum.

“Broadband is all about speed at the end of the day isn’t it?” asks an angry S.K. Gupta, Advisor (Converged Networks) TRAI. “What we are trying to reiterate is that the minimum speed for a service to be considered broadband is 256 kbps, and any offering below that can be marketed as high-speed internet but should not use the term ‘broadband,” he says.

According to TRAI data, the number of internet wireline subscribers (including dial-up, highspeed and broadband) touched 9.63 million in September 2007— a 4.4 per cent growth from June 2007. However, of that number, only 2.67 million subscribers received ‘true’ broadband (download speeds of 256 kbps or higher), but that number grew 10.3 per cent over the previous quarter. But as Gupta points out, a majority of people who accessed internet services did so using their mobile devices (including wireless data cards), with 46.37 million people (September 2007) using phones to access the internet. “This is why we are requesting the government not to delay the launch of 3G mobile services, because for the foreseeable future a vast majority of Indians will access the internet using mobiles.

After all, there are 225 million mobile users in India”, Gupta said. In the meantime, TRAI would do well to ensure that people who are paying for “broadband” are actually getting it.

—Kushan Mitra 

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