The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), our nation’s official regulator on all things related to telecommunications, was established back in 1997 by an act of Parliament to keep an eye on what telecom service providers in India are up to. And although it’s been nearly 20 years since then, TRAI often continues to function as if we’re still living in the 20th century.
The Authority recently issued a directive to broadband service providers to offer and maintain a minimum speed of 512Kbps to users. In the day and age of LTE connectivity and increasing broadband speeds, sticking to speeds of 512Kbps should be a piece of cake for most, if not all providers. As such, TRAI issuing a directive is unlikely to put pressure on any service providers to maintain a certain standard of service, and the regulator isn’t helping Indian internet users in any significant way.
According to Akamai’s quarterly State of the Internet Connectivity report, the global average broadband speed is a fairly high 6.1Mbps, with South Korea offering the fastest average internet speeds in the world at 27Mbps. Although India offers a relatively low 3.6Mbps average speed, this is still considerably higher than the 512Kbps directed by TRAI. It should nonetheless be a matter of shame if India is so much lower than the global average, and taking no concrete steps to improve Internet connectivity and speeds for consumers by TRAI is not helping the cause very much.
It’s worth noting that TRAI has previously recommended a minimum speed of 2Mbps, but the directive issued this week by the regulator doesn’t stick to that figure. Most service providers do succeed in maintaining pre-FUP limit speeds that are higher than 512Kbps already, so TRAI’s directive won’t do much to bother them. Additionally, average peak internet speeds in India are a low 26.1Mbps, as compared to the 157.3Mbps average speed offered in Singapore. All of this indicates that India, despite being one of the most populous countries in the world with a huge chunk of Internet-connected users, needs major improvement in internet speeds if its population is to develop in a connected world.
This whole affair shows that TRAI is doing very little to actually improve the quality of internet services in India. It’s unfair to say that the regulator is doing nothing to improve telecom services, and steps taken to reduce call drops are welcome, if not necessarily completely adequate. Additionally, TRAI is doing its part to ensure an improvement in cooperation with Reliance Jio by other service providers. But until TRAI wakes up and refreshes its ideas on what constitutes proper Internet connectivity, we’re doomed to a life of slow Internet, and remain at the mercies and wishes of Internet service providers.