02/11/2016 3:32 PM IST | Updated 02/11/2016 5:29 PM IST

TRAI's meagre 512 Kbps Broadband Mandate Will Push India Into A Technological Slump

Too little, too late for 'Digital India'.

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a mandate stating that all fixed line Internet providers will always provide a minimum speed of 512 Kbps to their users in order to be classified as a broadband service provider.

This order includes all the services that offer a Fair Usage Policy (FUP) as well. (Under FUP, an Internet service has to provide a Internet connection to the user at all times at a certain minimum guaranteed speed.) So, instead of the earlier 64 Kbps download speed, users will now get a minimum download speed of 512 Kbps after they have used up their data at higher speeds.

TRAI has also asked all Internet providers, both wired and wireless, to ensure that the full information about their FUP plans is accessible to the public.

The speed of 512 Kbps for a broadband connection however comes as a joke, especially when India is trying to boost its startup ecosystem. With the government trying to push initiatives such as 'Digital India', fast broadband connection is a key requirement for businesses today.

In July, Akamai, a US based content delivery and cloud services provider, released a report stating that India's average Internet speed was 3.5 Mbps, the lowest in the Asia Pacific region. In Internet speed world rankings, India is ranked a dismal 114th.

Ironically, earlier this year, TRAI itself had sent a letter to the Department of Telecom (DoT) with the recommendation that broadband connections should offer a minimum speed of 2 Mbps. In 2014 as well, TRAI had released a consultation paper with a similar recommendation. The DoT had defined the minimum speed of 512 Kbps as a broadband connection in 2013.

It appears that TRAI was pressured by network providers into keeping the minimum speed required for broadband classification at 512 Mbps. A report in Medianama suggests that many private players already throttle the free speed below 512 Kbps. Since most Internet consumers in India are connected through mobile Internet or dongles, there are very few fixed-line customers comparatively. Steps such as these will only demotivate consumers who would want a high-speed wired connection.