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General News Fixed broadband consumers to get minimum 512 kbps speed
Consumers of India’s fixed broadband services have reason to cheer. They will now be guaranteed a minimum download speed of 512 kbps at all times instead of 64 kbps, even after they use up their assigned data limit.

The telecom regulator on Monday asked fixed or `wired’ broadband operators to ensure a minimum 512 kbps download speed at all times, citing the telecom department’s amended definition of “broadband” notified in July 2013.

Broadband, according to DoT’s amended definition is a data connection that supports interactive services, including internet access, capable of a minimum download speed of 512 kbps to an individual subscriber.

“Download speed to the fixed broadband subscriber must not be reduced below the minimum level defined by DoT in any fair usage tariff plan, after expiry of assigned data quota of the consumer,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in a directive to broadband service providers.

Trai’s directive has dealt a blow to fixed broadband operators such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Sistema Shyam Teleservices among others who had earlier this year urged the regulator to allow throttling of speeds down to 64 kbps once a customer uses up the assigned quota to prevent misuse of fixed broadband services beyond the designated quota.

Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), declined to comment, saying “the industry body is studying Trai’s directive”.

Back in February, the COAI and the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers Association of India (Auspi) had in a joint letter advocated an immediate revision of the clause advocating 512 kbps minimum broadband speed, in response to Trai’s consultation paper on transparent delivery of internet and broadband services.

The COAI-Auspi letter had also urged Trai not to mandate any minimum speed after exhaustion of usage quota, if broadband services “are to remain affordable” in India.

The COAI represents India’s biggest telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, while Auspi represents dual-technology and CDMA operators such as RCom, Tata Teleservices and Sistema Shyam.

Broadband India Forum (BIF) president, T.V. Ramachandran, in turn, said “Trai must put safeguards in place to stop potential misuse by customers who’ve exceeded their data usage limits”.

The BIF, in its response to Trai’s consultation, had also suggested that minimum download speeds for wired broadband services, post-expiry of a user’s assigned quota must be kept at 64 kbps.

Meanwhile, the telecom regulator has separately asked mobile broadband operators to also keep customers fully in the loop on the primary technology – 3G or 4G – that they will enjoy while accessing data within their data usage limits, and actual (read: reduced) speeds beyond the threshold.

Trai has also asked mobile broadband operators to alert customers through text messages and email once they progressively exhaust 50%, 90% and 100% of their data usage limits based on their tariff plans.

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