Mobile, WiFi and Landline Telecommunication in India

TRAI Recommends 2Mbps as Minimum Broadband Speed, Asks Government to

Pay 50 Percent of Monthly Charges for Rural Connections

TRAI said the existing 512Kbps is “inadequate for accessing even some basic applications.”
By Jagmeet Singh | Updated: 1 September 2021 19:38 IST

TRAI Recommends 2Mbps as Minimum Broadband Speed, Asks Government to Pay 50 Percent of Monthly Charges for Rural Connections

Photo Credit: Pixabay/ Fotocitizen

  • TRAI has released its recommendations to enhance broadband connectivity
  • Minimum broadband speed is recommended to go up by four times
  • TRAI asked the government to allocate available spectrum
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a slew of recommendations to enhance broadband connectivity in the country, and one of the key suggestions is fixing the minimum download speed for broadband connectivity at 2Mbps. This is four times more than existing minimum broadband speed of 512Kbps that the regulator had introduced back in 2014 as an upgrade to the earlier 256Kbps speed. TRAI also recommends that the government should speed-up fixed-line broadband rollout in rural areas by reimbursing 50 percent of the monthly subscription charges.
In a 301-page document its recommendations to increase broadband penetration in the country. The regulator noted that on the basis of the inputs it received from stakeholders and its internal analysis, it found that the existing 512Kbps speed is “inadequate for accessing even some basic applications” and found that the minimum threshold should be 2Mbps.
“Broadband is a data connection that is able to support interactive services including Internet access and has the capability of the minimum download speed of 2Mbps to an individual subscriber from the point of presence (POP) of the service provider intending to provide broadband service,” TRAI said in its recommendations.

The regulator also considered categorisation in fixed broadband services based on download speeds, similar to what has been followed in the UK and Europe. It suggested that fixed broadband connections should be classified into three different categories — 'Basic Broadband' for connections with download speeds between 2–50Mbps, 'Fast Broadband' with 50–300Mbps, and 'Super-Fast Broadband' with download speeds of above 300Mbps.

Alongside recommending the minimum speed and categories on the basis of download speeds, TRAI in its document touched upon the need for increasing the penetration of fixed-line broadband in the country. It said that only 9.1 percent of Indian households have fixed broadband, while a majority of residents have mobile broadband as the only source of Internet access.
To improve Internet penetration, TRAI recommends incentivising investment in the last-mile linkage for fixed-line broadband and an interest subvention scheme for capable operators providing wired Internet connections. The regulator also urged the government to create a national portal for Right of Way (RoW) permissions for laying fibre and installing towers.

TRAI also asked the government to subsidise Internet access via broadband for the rural population through a pilot Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme. Under the pilot, the regulator said that the government should consider reimbursing 50 percent of the monthly fixed-line broadband subscription charges of not more than Rs. 200 per month. It also noted that the reimbursement could be processed through e-RUPI that the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) released last month.
Additionally, TRAI recommends that the government expedites auction of available mid-band spectrum of 3300MHz to 3600MHz airwaves and allocate the millimetre wave (mmWave) range spectrum to enhance mobile broadband speed in the country. It also suggested that a centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) should be created by the government to incentivise states and union territories for reforming RoW.

It is important to note that the recommendations made by TRAI are not binding on the service providers. However, the government may consider them and amend related laws.

TRAI Says Minimum Broadband Speed Should Be 4 Times Faster
Trai directs telcos to have at least 1 plan allowing recharge validity of 30 days
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2022, 07:23 PM IST

In a change to the telecommunication order of 1999, Trai on Thursday said that, “Every telecom service provider shall offer at least one plan voucher, one special tariff voucher and one combo voucher having a validity of thirty days.”
AgenciesThe clause added further said that every service provider shall also offer at least one plan voucher, one special tariff voucher and one combo voucher which shall be renewable on the same date of every month.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has mandated telcos to have at least one tariff plan which allows a recharge validity of 30 days, in a departure from its longstanding policy of forbearance on tariffs.

In a change to the telecommunication order of 1999, Trai on Thursday said that, “Every telecom service provider shall offer at least one plan voucher, one special tariff voucher and one combo voucher having a validity of thirty days.”

The clause added further said that every service provider shall also offer at least one plan voucher, one special tariff voucher and one combo voucher which shall be renewable on the same date of every month.

The regulator has explained the move to be consumer friendly and explained that with the amendment, telecom subscribers will have more options to choose service offerings of appropriate validity and duration. This would also facilitate consumers in making a more informed tariff-related choice.

Trai had floated a consultation paper in May last year, asking all stakeholders whether it should intervene in the matter. The regulator had said it has received numerous complaints including ones where consumers said they were being made to do 13 recharges in a year for monthly plans, thus making them feel cheated.

Detailing the responses of the telcos and other stakeholders, the regulator said, “…the views of the stakeholders are clearly divided with service providers reiterating their preference for the continuance of present forbearance regime with regard to validity period of tariff offers”.

On the other hand, it said, consumer advocacy groups, consultancy organizations and individual customers were of the view that in addition to mandating 30 days tariff offering, a monthly tariff offering rechargeable on the same date of each month should also be provided for.

The regulator has made a case for the same while citing international operators. It has said Vodafone in the UK and Verizon in the US have monthly prepaid plans regardless of how many days there are in a month. “Since availability of prepaid tariffs rechargeable on the same date of every month is in vogue internationally, there is no reason why such a facility should not be made available to Indian telecom consumers as well,” Trai said.

The telcos had opposed the proposal floated by the regulator on different grounds.

Vodafone Idea had said any change to the existing 28 days or 54 days or 84 days would upset the billing cycle, and need gigantic efforts towards consumer awareness and retail channel education at the operator’s end. Reliance Jio Infocomm, while agreeing to a 30 day recharge, had said, “tariffs wherein the customer is required to recharge on the same day every month with the same fixed amount is not technically possible, as this is primarily a postpaid structure.”

Airtel however had argued that a large percentage of prepaid customers belong to a very low-income group. Thus, it justified the 28-day recharge saying, “A 28 days validity for such a section of society means they budget their usage on a weekly basis which helps in managing their mobile expenses in a better and organized way.”

It further went on to say that mandating a tariff offer with a specific validity of 30 days or a month with requirement of tariff to be renewed only on the same date of each month, may not be of any value addition to a prepaid customer whose recharge preferences may not change by introduction of such one-off offering.

Trai directs telcos to have at least 1 plan allowing recharge validity of 30 days
What does 5G spectrum auction delay mean for India?
By Nivedita Mookerji
November 29, 2021 11:41 IST

For India 5G will mean a lot for healthcare, robotics and unleashing a new chapter in Digital India perhaps. A delay in 5G auctions would, in fact, imply keeping many telecom-linked reforms on hold.
Nivedita Mookerji reports.

Discussing the prospect of more reform earlier this month, telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw announced a delay in the 5G spectrum auction.
India’s telecom sector regulation has to be benchmarked with the global best, he said.
It’s another matter that many countries have either introduced or are about to roll out 5G services that will enable cutting-edge tech in diverse areas.

For India, too, it will mean a lot for healthcare, robotics and unleashing a new chapter in Digital India perhaps.
A delay in 5G auctions would, in fact, imply keeping many telecom-linked reforms on hold.
So far, China has built over 1.15 million 5G base stations, accounting for a large chunk of the total around the world.
In the US, too, many telecom companies are in the process of launching their 5G services in new bands once they cross some bureaucratic hurdles.
The Federal Aviation Administration, for one, had lodged a last-minute objection claiming 5G could interfere with flight paths using “adjacent spectrum”.

Experts have spoken of the huge economic cost of the delay in 5G services while pointing out that aviation and telecom spectrum have co-existed for years.
In India, related to the timing of the 5G auction is another government policy — that of allocating spectrum for satellite-linked communication services.
A war of sorts has broken out on how that spectrum should be allocated and priced, with Sunil Mittal and Elon Musk on one side and the camp led by Mukesh Ambani on the other.
The government does not want to be seen taking sides and is sending out signals that a comprehensive spectrum policy would be in place.
Till then even backhaul spectrum — necessary for local access to networks — may not be given out.
With policy on hold in these areas, the hinterland and Digital India may well be a casualty.
Mobile operators, who have waited for more than one-and-a-half years for backhaul spectrum, may have to wait more as the Department of Telecom is likely to make allocations only after an overall policy is formed on how airwaves should be granted to all stakeholders — through administered pricing or auction.
The back and forth on telecom spectrum is not new.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has come out with close to 30 consultation papers and as many as 60 recommendation documents related to spectrum policy so far.
These papers also capture the terrain of telecom policy-making in the country.
The first of these papers can be traced back to 1999 in the early days of mobile telephony.
We began with auction in the mid-90s and then switched to administered pricing a few years later, before returning to auction in 2010 when telcos went all out bidding for 3G and broadband wireless spectrum.
India is at a crossroads again on spectrum policy, formulating a new plan on how to distribute airwaves after about a decade.
Globally, most countries have opted for the auction model. Japan has been an exception going for 5G spectrum allocation on administered pricing.
Although in many countries it’s a combination of auction and revenue-sharing, the cost to telcos is not exorbitant, unlike in India.
Prashant Singhal, Emerging Markets Technology, Media & Entertainment and Telecommunications (TMT) Sector Leader at EY, believes it’s important to link the spectrum policy of the day to the larger objective.
“In the current context, we need to have a parity between faster telecom services growth and reasonable pricing.
"The burden on the industry should come down through innovative measures; for instance, pay-as-earn model and auction based on revenue share.
"There can be fresh thinking on floor pricing too,” he said.
On satellite broadband specifically, Singhal thinks spectrum regulation should be “enabling” for deeper access to the hinterland.
Satellite is not telecom communication in itself, and therefore should be seen differently, he said.
The latest Trai paper on satellite communications, which was issued on November 15, points out that with the technological developments in satellite communication, the operation of earth station (hub) has become more complex and dynamic, and it may require to be established and operated by the satellite operator itself.
However, according to the draft Spacecom Policy 2020 released by the Department of Space, non-government private Indian entities should be permitted to become significant players in global space communication.
The policy push has prompted the Department of Telecom to seek Trai’s recommendation on how spectrum for satellite communication should be allocated and priced.
In India, the subject of satellite communication has heated up with Bharti Group chairman Sunil Mittal having interest in both terrestrial as well as satellite.
Mittal’s OneWeb and Elon Musk’s Starlink (a subsidiary of SpaceX), with their low-earth orbiting network (LEO), are at the centre of the debate of spectrum pricing. Some new industry associations have sprung up as well in the process.
At a virtual media conference recently, Mittal asked, “What auction do you do? People are not understanding...This is not a terrestrial spectrum being used.
"This is not going to be used in every part of the country.
"This is going to be only in two landing stations at those specific points.”
His argument is that globally there has never been an auction for satellite spectrum.
His claim is that OneWeb will benefit other telcos as well.
However, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio’s stand has been clear.
Jio has said the principle of “same service, same rules and same fees” must apply to satellite communication service providers, and has called on the government to hold auctions.

Once the comments and counter-comments to the Trai paper on satellite communications come out by the end of December, the regulator could streamline its future course of action.
Not just on satcom but on the entire spectrum policy that India is waiting for.

Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

What does 5G spectrum auction delay mean for India?
Jio forays into satellite broadband market
Source: PTI
February 14, 2022 14:04 IST

Digital services company Jio Platforms on Monday announced a joint venture with Luxembourg-based SES to provide satellite-based broadband services in India, a joint statement said.

The two companies have formed a joint venture, Jio Space Technology Limited, in which Jio Platforms (JPL) and SES will own 51 per cent and 49 per cent equity stake respectively.
"The joint venture will be the vehicle for providing SES's satellite data and connectivity services in India, except for certain international aeronautical and maritime customers who may be served by SES.

"It will have availability of up to 100 Gbps capacity from SES and will leverage Jio's premiere position and sales reach in India to unlock this market opportunity," the statement said.
The joint venture will use multi-orbit space networks, a combination of geostationary (GEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellations, capable of delivering multi-gigabit links and capacity to enterprises, mobile backhaul and retail customers across the length and breadth of India and neighbouring regions.
"Jio, as an anchor customer of the joint venture, has entered into a multi-year capacity purchase agreement, based on certain milestones along with gateways and equipment purchase with total contract value of circa USD 100 million," according to the statement.
Jio director Akash Ambani said, "While we continue to expand our fibre-based connectivity and FTTH business and invest in 5G, this new joint venture with SES will further accelerate the growth of multigigabit broadband."

He further added that "with additional coverage and capacity offered by satellite communications services, Jio will be able to connect the remotest towns and villages, enterprises, government establishments, and consumers to the new Digital India."
Photograph: PTI Photo

Jio forays into satellite broadband market
5G spectrum auction expected in May
Source: PTI
February 13, 2022 17:30 IST

The long-awaited 5G spectrum auction is expected to be held in May this year if the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) submits by March its recommendations on the rules regarding the sale process, according to a senior official of the telecom department.

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw earlier this month said the Trai has informed that it will submit its recommendations for the 5G auction by March and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is simultaneously firming up other processes to hold the auction at the earliest.
"Trai has indicated that they will send it (recommendations) by March.

"Thereafter, it will take us a month to make a decision around it," telecom secretary K Rajaraman told PTI.

Earlier, the government has taken time of 60-120 days to start the bidding rounds in the auction after receiving recommendations from Trai on spectrum auction.
Rajaraman said it will take the DoT two months to start the auction from the day it gets recommendations from the Trai.
According to the DoT, 5G is expected to deliver download speed 10 times faster than 4G services.
As per the process, DoT seeks reference from the Trai on spectrum price, method for allocating it, block size of spectrum, payments terms and conditions, among others.
The Trai holds consultation with the industry and other stakeholders and then submits recommendations to the DoT.
As per the current practice, the apex decision making body at the DoT, the Digital Communications Commission (formerly the Telecom Commission) takes the decision on Trai recommendations and then approaches the Cabinet for the final approval.
Rajaraman said that the DoT has already selected MSTC as the auctioneer for the upcoming auction.

Trai has given participants in 5G spectrum consultation to submit their additional comments by February 15 after which it will review and come up with recommendations.
Telecom operators have demanded up to 95 per cent cut in the spectrum frequency band price.
Both telecom and satellite players are at loggerheads with each other on rules for the 5G spectrum auction.

5G spectrum auction expected in May