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Speeding Up: TRAI prescribes minimum wireless data download rates

May 27, 2014
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In a bid to ensure a high quality service experience for data users in the country, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had, in December 2012, announced the Standards of Quality of Service (QoS) for Wireless Data Services Regulations, 2012. These regulations set several QoS parameters and their corresponding benchmarks for operators providing data services to users. However, it did not specify any benchmark for the minimum download speed and instead asked service providers to measure the minimum download speed for each of their plans and report to TRAI accordingly.

In the past few months, TRAI has received several complaints from consumers regarding the poor download speeds offered by operators. Therefore, TRAI believes that there is a need to mandate a minimum download speed for wireless data services. To this end, it has released a consultation paper, “Amendment to the Standards of Quality of Service for Wireless Data Services Regulations, 2012”. Industry stakeholders have been invited to give their views on the issues arising out of the implementation of the QoS regulations announced in 2012. The move is expected to provide clarity and assurance on the minimum download speed that consumers would get from their telecom operator, with regard to both 2G and 3G services.

Key issues related to wireless data QoS

TRAI has been monitoring the minimum download speed reported by service providers for each data plan in the last three quarters. It has been observed that the minimum download speed is not uniform across all the licensed service areas. Further, the minimum download speed varies amongst service providers even for the same technology and the variation is quite large. For instance, in 2G technology, the speed varies from 21.42 kbps to 97.06 kbps.

Consumers availing of wireless data services are not aware of the minimum download speed that they should expect from operators. Typically, the tariff plans offered by operators give information pertaining to the volume of data usage for various technologies, with no clarity about the speeds being offered. As a result, TRAI has received multiple complaints from consumers regarding the lack of clarity in tariff plans.

Objectives of the consultation paper

Based on the data reported by service providers in the last three quarters, TRAI has sought to prescribe minimum download speeds for wireless data services on a technology basis. These are as follows:

•CDMA 1X – 56 kbps

•CDMA HSD – 512 kbps with 95 per cent success rate

•CDMA EVDO – 1 Mbps with 95 per cent success rate

•GSM 2G – 56 kbps

•GSM3G  – 1 Mbps with 95 per cent success rate.

TRAI has sought the views of all shareholders on the aforementioned benchmarks for the minimum download speed.

Another alternative suggested by TRAI is that service providers must also specify a minimum download speed that will be applicable for each plan while providing details pertaining to tariffs and data services offered to consumers. Accordingly, each tariff plan advertised through websites, telephone bills, sale vouchers, complaint centres and sales offices must mention the minimum download speed. Further, in case of a change in plan or speed by the operator, notification of the same should be given to the subscriber and also be published through suitable advertisements. Moreover, the service provider should inform TRAI about the minimum download speed while filing tariffs.

In this regard, TRAI has invited stakeholders’ views on whether service providers should be mandated to inform customers about the minimum download speed along with each tariff plan.

Conclusion

The TRAI consultation paper comes at a time when 3G service adoption has started gaining momentum in the country and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the user experience offered by service providers. Speed is a key qualifier for users to adopt a particular technology or subscribe to any given data plan by operators. Thus, TRAI’s move to define the minimum speed for wireless data services or to make it compulsory for operators to inform consumers about the minimum speed of data services, is a step in the right direction.

 
 
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