India has changed its definition of what counts as a “broadband” connection from 512 kbps to 2 Mbps, which is expected to improve overall quality of service for broadband consumers, especially in rural, suburban and some metro areas.
The Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) definition of minimum broadband has been 512 kbps since 2013. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently recommended the DoT department increase it to 2 Mbps.
The DoT accepted the recommendation and notified the change last week.
Broadband India Forum (BIF) president TV Ramachandran said the 400% increase in minimum broadband speeds will boost per-capita data consumption and improve the service experience for Indian consumers – especially heavy video consumers who rely on data-rich apps.
Uneven broadband distribution
According to BIF, there’s an uneven distribution of broadband speeds across the country which is bringing down average data consumption. Ramachandran said that 45,180 villages in India do not have any 4G coverage.
“If operators will have to consistently deliver at least 2 Mbps data speeds in all those areas also, people living in those areas will have a legal basis to go and demand higher speeds,” he told the Economic Times.
As per data from TRAI, India had just over 792 million broadband subscribers at the end of 2022, 765.6 million of which were wireless broadband users.
“The four-fold increase in the minimum broadband speed definition will require higher capital expenditure from telecom operators, especially in rural areas where people rely more on videos than any other media, as they need to listen to things to understand,” Ramachandran further told the publication .
India must encourage more investment
BIF, which represents Big Tech firms as well as some telecom companies, believes that the Indian government must encourage more investment to help increase broadband penetration in India.
Ramachandran said that the focus should not be to maximise revenue yet, but to encourage more penetration, as revenue can come to the government indirectly from the public.
“Once investments in networks deliver better quality, more subscribers will come on who will use the networks better to increase productivity, generate income and have a multiplier effect,” he added.
While 2 Mbps is a big jump from 512 kbps, it’s still lower than many other markets. For instance, Bangladesh defines broadband as minimum speeds of 5 Mbps.
According to Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index rankings for January 2023, India placed 79th in the median fixed broadband speed test category. That’s two spots higher than Ookla’s rankings in December 2022.