TRAI Initiates Public Consultation on Labelling Broadband Services in India

BWCIO, June 21, 2017

The consultation paper explores issues related to data speeds in wireless broadband services.

TRAI, the apex telecom regulator in the country, has come out with a public consultation paper inviting comments on data speeds of wireless broadband services in India. The paper, released on June 1, 2017, also explores whether such services should have a standard label as broadband consumers today lack awareness and information on their broadband plans.

Since September 2016, Indian consumers have been exposed to a new wave of wireless broadband services, catalysing data consumption and increasing competition within the telecom sector. But when it comes to receiving good quality data speeds and choosing the best plan, it is observed that most consumers are either confused or do not get the quality as against the plan they have purchased.

With a mandate to digitally connect Indian citizens through WiFi hotspots and broadband services, TRAI recognises these QoS issues as a major hindrance towards internet penetration and consumer empowerment. Hence, the timing of this consultation paper is critical as the country is experiencing digital transformation today.

CUTS International, an evidence based think-tank working on consumers’ interest, has been working on this initiative for over four months now and strongly advocates that a simple and standard labelling format will empower consumers to make informed decisions on usage and purchase of broadband data plans.

Labelling of broadband services refers to providing detailed and standard information to consumers so that they may compare and choose between Internet service providers.

Such a label may contain details that pertain to pricing, minimum average speed, monthly data allowance namely, the carrier-defined plan limit after which consumers will incur additional charges, broadband speed and other performance metrics.

Broadband labelling is a tried and tested mechanism that is currently prevalent in the US by the Federal Communications Commission through its Open Internet Order in 2015 and in the UK through the Voluntary Code of Practice for Broadband Speeds.

To generate awareness and sensitise multiple stakeholders such as policy makers, industry and consumers on the issue, CUTS International has built an alliance of t10 consumer organisations operating in various parts of India and four national ICT industry associations – Broadband India Forum, COAI, ICA and MAIT.

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