Trai needs to move beyond 512kbps, and overcome FUP and QoS barriers

The directive to ensure ISPs and TSPs inform users via SMS or email, when their data limit reaches 50, 90 and 100 percent, is laudable. But having an unlimited plan with an unreliable 512kbps speed hardly serves any purpose.


Trai released a directive which mandates all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to ensure that customers get a minimum download speed of 512Kbps, even after the fair usage policy (FUP) limit is up. Mind you, this is not an update to the minimum broadband speed, which is still 512Kbps, according to a July 2013 order.

TRAI Direction 31102016 BBPA by Tech2 on Scribd

Yes. I too did a double take when I read 'kilobits per second' and 'minimum download speed' in the same line. In 2016. The directive to ensure ISPs and TSPs inform users via SMS or email, when their data limit reaches 50, 90 and 100 percent, is laudable. But having an unlimited plan with an unreliable 512kbps speed hardly serves any purpose. The talks of raising the minimum broadband speed to 2 Mbps has still not gone anywhere.

For a country with the second largest number of Internet users, internet speeds are still being measured in kilobits per second in 2016.

India is second largest internet consumer in APAC region, but has the lowest speeds. (Image: Statista)

India is second largest internet consumer in APAC region, but has the lowest speeds. Figures indicate millions of users (Image: Statista)

FUP in India is a joke

Let's get one thing out of the way. FUP limits in India are a joke. FUP, that dreaded policy which lets ISPs and TSPs either cut off or downgrade your internet speeds after you have crossed a certain data limit ceiling, is universally hated and more so in India.

This means, that my ‘Unlimited’ 2Mbps plan will switch to 512Kbps after I have exhausted 16GB data within a month. Despite Trai’s paper on transparency surrounding FUP limits, a lot of ISPs still continue to offer ‘Unlimited Plans’, for which the conditions are hidden somewhere in the fine print. I wonder if the current directive will remove the asterisk beside the 'Unlimited Plans' and show things more up front?

Limit your Internet appetite or pay up

I wouldn't call FUP a bad thing as such, but when I look at the rich media that I consume and the FUP data limits, I tear my hair out. And it's not just me. With TV and audio streaming services on the rise and social media sites becoming media heavy, even someone who doesn't depend on the internet for their daily bread has to keep an eye out on the FUP limit. No wonder you are seeing apps offering features such as Offline modes for users here.

Image: Reuters

Image: Reuters

Even a simple task as watching a YouTube video post my FUP limit is a frustrating experience. If I have to upload a review video after my FUP limit, then I better leave it on overnight. The only other alternative is to go for high-priced internet plans. Or top up my current plans. Both these approaches only make one entity richer. And that isn't me.

A common misconception a lot of us have about FUP limits is that it pertains only to downloads. So anything you do online which uses data adds up to your bandwidth. Uploading that presentation, backing up stuff on your cloud drive, sending that GIF to multiple groups on WhatsApp, conducting a VoIP call and so on, anything that uses your internet connection to pass data is reducing your available data limit.

Service availability and Uptime woes

Apart from FUP, another area of concern is the quality of service (QoS). If I had a rupee for every time I had to call my ISP during the monsoon months, I'd be a rich fellow by now. According to Trai regulations, the service availability and uptime for all users should be 98 percent and up. We all know what's the reality on that front.

Another area that is of concern is a reliable, true to speed, internet connection. ISPs rarely if ever, unless you are a corporate entity or are paying good money for more expensive plans, give a dedicated internet connection. So your speed of 10Mbps is technically up to 10Mbps. If you think I am kidding? Run a Speedtest on your home internet connections at different times of the day, you will not get the same numbers. Some amount of leeway on delivered bandwidth is understandable, but I don't think a 90 percent variation in speeds is acceptable.

Image Credit: REUTERS

Image Credit: REUTERS

Corporate entities draw up service level agreements with ISPs and TSPs to ensure that uptime is maintained as promised. Else there could be legal proceedings. Individuals like us are at the complete mercy of the service providers, who are not obligated to ensure uptime is maintained under all circumstances. Without your intervention, many service providers will not even bother to address the issues you may be facing.

Why should that be the case?

We talk about Digital India, and having a National Broadband Plan. But when it comes to basics such as minimum broadband speed, FUP limits, quality of service and uptime, there are still many question marks. Also, service providers even having the gall to suggest that post FUP speeds drop to 64kbps is nothing but appalling. Thankfully, Trai has us covered on this front, but other telling issues still remain.


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