Though all private operators provide download speeds far in excess of 2 mbps, in some remote parts in the wireless services due to lesser number of BTS the speed limits may be lower at the consumers' end.
Despite lagging in service quality compared to private sector peers, state-owned BSNL/MTNL have suggested to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) that minimum download speed for broadband services — wireline as well as wireless — be fixed at 2 mbps against the current 512 kbps.
Private sector operators like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea, while providing speeds much higher than 2 mbps currently, have suggested that the present minimum speed of 512 kbps be retained till the issues relating to affordability and availability in remotest parts of the country are overcome.
Fixing minimum speeds means that no operator can offer tariff packages below that threshold. Though all private operators provide download speeds far in excess of 2 mbps, in some remote parts in the wireless services due to lesser number of BTS the speed limits may be lower at the consumers’ end.
The responses of the operators are part of a consultation paper floated by the Trai on how to improve broadband services and connectivity in the country.
Analysts said BSNL and MTNL may have sounded ambitious in their responses for fixing minimum speeds at 2 mbps, but if that happens, they may be the worst sufferers.
For instance, in the wireline segment, BSNL has 7.85 million broadband customers, followed by Bharti Airtel which has 2.53 million users. But as majority of BSNL’s wired broadband connections run on ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) using copper lines, ensuring a higher speed for all users could be difficult, especially in smaller cities and towns. BSNL has fibre to home (FTTH) connections but it is limited to only few bigger cities.
Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are mostly providing FTTH connections and also putting in massive investments in it, hence ensuring higher speeds is not a problem.
In the wireless segment, BSNL does not currently offer 4G services but has 3G services which is also categorised as wireless broadband. During the various speed checks by global analytical firms like Ookla, Opensignal as well as Trai, the speed on BSNL network usually lags behind that of private operators. There are many circles like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, etc, where the average speed of BSNL in the last six months was less than 2 mbps.
Private operators in their comments to Trai have highlighted that affordability and availability of broadband should be the topmost priority of government and till the time infrastructure becomes omnipresent, the current definition should be continued. For instance, Bharti Airtel has said that after two years, the definition can be changed. It has said that for mobile broadband, any connection that is 4G or beyond should be treated as broadband while for fixed broadband, the minimum speed should be fixed at 8 mbps.