Want to use a broadband plan but worried about hidden costs and false data speed claims? Well, not any more, hopefully. As per directives issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) it will now be pertinent for service providers to provide information to the broadband consumers about various plans and Fair Usage Policy (FUP) on their website and also in all advertisements published through any media. This includes data usage limit with higher speed; speed of connection up to data usage limit; and speed of connection beyond data usage limit.
Operators will also need to provide information in printed form to the new subscribers on their enrolment and to existing subscribers through registered email and SMS on their mobile numbers registered with the service providers.
This directive will also take care of the issues faced when consumers replenish their download/plan limits and broadband speeds drastically slow down and in some cases it fall below 256 kbps. As per the directive, service providers will now need to ensure that the speed of broadband connection is not reduced below the minimum specified limit and to provide alert to consumers, via SMS as well as email, when their data usage reaches 80 per cent and 100 per cent of the data usage limit bundled with the plan. This alert needs to be provided at the time of each login too!
Going below permissible limits is illicit and goes against the Quality of Service of Broadband Service Regulations, 2006 (11 of 2006) in which Broadband is defined as “an always-on data connection that is able to support interactive services including Internet access and has the capability of the minimum download speed of 256 kilo bits per second (kbps) to an individual subscriber from the Point of Presence (POP) of the service provider intending to provide Broadband service where multiple such individual Broadband connections are aggregated and the subscriber is able to access these interactive services including the Internet through this PoP.” This was further moved up to 512kbps in Jan 2011. TRAI expects the minimum broadband speed to be upgraded to 2 Mbps by January 2015.
The directive has been issued courtesy repetitive complaints from consumers and corporates stating that service providers are not delivering broadband services in a transparent manner. Also this decision will help consumers make informed decisions when they are looking to opt for broadband plans.
The first step to transparency was brought earlier this year, in March, wherein TRAI issued a directive asking telecom service providers to refrain from publishing misleading tariff advertisements so as to protect the interests of the consumers. According to the directive while disseminating tariff related information service providers need to ensure that every advertisement published by it is transparent, non-misleading, legible, audible and unambiguous; It should disclose all material information which is likely to influence the decision of a subscriber in an unambiguous manner; and should contain the website address and customer care number of the telecom access service provider to enable the customer to obtain any information pertaining to the tariff plan.
A few days back TRAI had issued guidelines on minimum quality benchmark for mobile internet services too, which among other things has made it mandatory for operators to activate such services within three hours of receiving the request from a customer. It will monitor quality of mobile internet service on nine parameters, including minimum download speed, successful data transmission download and upload attempts and latency among others.