Broadband India Forum (BIF) has commended the step taken by the Government of India to raise the minimum speed for the definition of broadband to 2Mbps from the erstwhile 512Kbps, an enhancement of minimum data speed by four-fold. This is a big step taken in the interest of consumers and will also help in lifting the overall quantum of per capita data consumption and improve the service experience.

India being a ‘mobile first’ country heavily relies on mobile broadband with almost 98 per cent of the broadband users accessing broadband through their mobile phones. This upgradation in minimum broadband speed will help improve overall quality of service for the consumers. This move will particularly benefit consumers in rural areas, suburban areas and fringes of metros who are heavy video consumers and rely more on video and data-rich apps and thus would be a great boon for the aam janata at the bottom of the pyramid.

The government’s move is especially significant in the current context where both government and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are concurrently taking up with the concerned operators strongly, the urgent need to improve quality of service provided on mobile.

It is unfortunate that as many as 45,180 villages in India do not have any 4G coverage at all, that is, no mobile broadband. Moreover, as Aroon Deep laments, “between the villages without any 4G networks whatsoever and the large cities where high speeds are taken for granted, lie the oft-ignored smaller urban settlements struggling with weak connectivity. Such towns, which loose out in the digital divide in a less documented way, may start getting more attention now that the definition of ‘broadband’ has been upgraded”.

BIF also wishes to laud the regulatory authority, TRAI, which, in August 2021 itself, had recommended the need to increase the minimum broadband speed to 2Mbps and also a number of other measures to improve broadband coverage and enhance broadband speed. This was desperately required since long by the ‘aam aadmi’, especially in the hinterland of the country and holds tremendous significance for a country like India where the population relies on video consumption to counter challenges in many areas like cultural and linguistic diversity, literacy levels etc. and need better speeds to access it. Hence, this mandate of the government to sharply increase minimum broadband speed is a historic step forward in public interest and in marching towards Digital India.

Hailing it as a significant milestone in our journey on the digital highway, TV Ramachandran, president, BIF, said, “While 2Mbps may not sound good enough for the modern broadband era as one would need much higher speeds for satisfactory experience in applications such as telecommuting, file downloading, video conferencing, streaming video –both standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD), nevertheless this strong nudge provided by the government will definitely help ensure improved consumer experience and consumer satisfaction. We are confident that the existing large divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ of good internet connectivity will start reducing, thanks to the latest government action”.

While this upgradation in minimum broadband speed is indeed a big milestone, India still has a long way to go to catch up with major regimes such as the US where the regulator, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has already prescribed a minimum broadband speed of 25 Mbps. Even Bangladesh has prescribed a higher minimum broadband speed of 5Mbps. Moreover, studies have shown that for experiencing good quality of video streaming one needs to have download speeds much in excess of even 5 Mbps and probably nearer values of 14 Mbps or 15Mbps. Consumers and Digital India would be facilitated by working toward such targets and a few more similar steps by the government in this direction to allow us to reach those goals soon.