The change in the definition of broadband will be a big relief for telecom consumers, as recommended earlier by the sectoral regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).
The Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body of DoT, will clear the proposal to increase speed at its next meeting.
According to global internet testing firm Ookla's recently released Speedtest Global Index, as of February, India ranked 67th in fixed broadband speed and 109th for mobile internet speeds. This was despite the fact that 4G services were being offered by most telecom operators in the country. These services, however, have largely been an urban phenomenon; rural areas are still awaiting broadband services. Currently, speed at or above 512 kbps is termed broadband.
According to Ookla, as internet speed improves in India and consumers take advantage of the opportunities, it only stands to reason that increased demand will lead to innovation across mediums which also open up new ways to create and connect with each other.
Various studies, including those by World Bank, have concluded that there is a strong positive correlation between broadband penetration and GDP growth. In 2011, India changed the broadband definition to 512 kbps from 256 kbps. The change to 2 mbps was to happen in 2015 but got delayed.
Telecom veteran TV Ramachandran said the US telecommunications regulator in 2015 redefined broadband as an internet connection that delivers at least 25 Mbps downstream, up from the prevailing 4 Mbps and 3 Mbps upstream, up from 1 Mbps.
Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said it support the need for increased broadband speeds but has also sought some relief in levies as telecom operators have to spend hefty amounts in setting up infrastructure.
“We support the need for increased broadband speeds, as this is a feature demanded increasingly by our customers, who are increasingly switching to smart phones and consuming increasing amounts of data. Increasing investments will need to be made by our operators in network infrastructure to meet this demand,” COAI DG Rajan Mathews said.
He added fiberisation of networks along with the allocation of backhaul spectrum (E&V Bands) will be a key requirement.
“Our operators are committed to making these investments. However, it would be a big boost to operators if the government can address the issue of the financial stress being faced by the industry by reducing the crushing taxes and levies presently at over 30 per cent, being borne by the industry. This will go a long way in expediting the achievement of the governments objectives,” said Mathews.