Broadband statistics fail to reflect 2Mbps redefinition

Even though the telecom department quadrupled the defined speed of broadband to 2Mbps, the official statistics on broadband show increasing numbers

Updated - April 22, 2023 10:22 pm IST

Published - April 22, 2023 03:20 pm IST - NEW DELHI

In January, the definition of broadband was updated to 2Mbps, quadrupling the bandwidth necessary to qualify for the tag. Image for representational purpose only.

In January, the definition of broadband was updated to 2Mbps, quadrupling the bandwidth necessary to qualify for the tag. Image for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Broadband statistics in India appear to not be reflecting the change in the definition of the service.

In January, the definition of broadband was updated to 2Mbps, quadrupling the bandwidth necessary to qualify for the tag. In India, ‘broadband’ is defined not just as fixed line connections, but also wireless connections that offer fast internet speeds.

As The Hindu had reported in February, the re-definition of broadband was significant in light of “grey spots” in the country, which are rural areas or crowded towns where mobile operators haven’t built enough infrastructure to serve the demand of the local population without running into issues like congestion, with users reporting download speeds lower than the newly mandated 2Mbps.

However, the Telecom Subscription Report, published at the end of each month retrospectively, doesn’t appear to be reflecting the changed definition of broadband at all. The report for January 31st, 2023, published at the end of March, counts 806.07 million wireless broadband users, supposedly indicating that these subscribers have access to at least 2Mbps in bandwidth. 

In the report for the previous month, before the re-definition, the number was 799.82 million, meaning the number of broadband users has actually increased in the wake of the change in definition. 

ALSO READ | India’s mobile downloading speed increases while broadband dips

TRAI and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) did not respond to a questionnaire on whether the methodology to update broadband users was changed to reflect the new definition of broadband. 

The COAI, which represents Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, said in a regulatory filing in 2018 on the re-definition that this should be done on the basis of “average” download speed, and not be set as an absolute minimum in all circumstances. 

The industry group had said in 2020 that “We believe that any changes to the existing broadband definition should be based on the type of services being accessed by the consumers, comparable with global norms, ensure optimal utilization of existing infrastructure and have priority towards availability and affordability.”

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