The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently released draft regulations on the minimum quality benchmarks for mobile Internet service. “It is necessary to benchmark and monitor the quality of service offered by the service providers of mobile data services with various options open to the implementing agencies so that the interests of consumers are protected,” TRAI said. The TRAI has sought written comments on the draft regulations from stakeholders by July 25 and counter comments by August 1.

The draft states that it will be mandatory for an operator to activate mobile Internet services within three hours of request from a customer, with a 95 percent success rate; data download attempts should have a success rate of 90 per cent and data upload attempts should have a success rate of 85 percent; the minimum download speed provided should be recorded by the service provider and reported to TRAI; and the average throughput for packet data should be 90 percent of the subscribed speed. Among other things, the draft mentioned that the connection drop rate should be less than or equal to two percent of the total time.

Earlier this year, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) expressed its resentment towards the indifference of the TRAI towards the industry’s pleas for consumer interest and sustainability of the sector. The non-government body had alleged that TRAI had been pushing flawed recommendations, along with being biased. COAI aims to aid service providers in establishing and maintaining world-class, affordable mobile services in India.

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TRAI releases new draft regulations for mobile internet services

COAI also disapproved of the discriminatory environment existent between dual technology operators and GSM operators, and also the subsequent violations of the level playing field. It claimed that TRAI has ignored the industry representations and further burdened the sector with its erroneous and unfair recommendations for the reserve price for auction of spectrum. This, it believed, would further lead to serious public interest and public policy impacts and could critically be at the detriment of the consumers.

One of TRAI’s unpopular recommendations, if implemented could help the government earn revenues amounting to a staggering Rs.300,000 crore from refarming of the spectrum. A letter written by the TRAI to the secretary of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) states that by refarming, the government can realize the true value of spectrum in the precious 900MHz and 800 MHz bands, according to previous reports. The older existing operators hold spectrum in these bands and TRAI has recommended that the 900MHz and 800MHz bands should be replaced by 1800MHz and the vacant bands be auctioned, which will account to the aforesaid sum in over four years. 

The Authority would however like to underline that spectrum required for refarming be set aside since the value to be realised from the auction of 800 and 900 MHz spectrum is very large — of the order of Rs. 3 lakh crore at the reserve price — besides involving issues of level-playing field,” said a recent letter written by TRAI secretary to DoT secretary. 

Auspi (Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India), which represents CDMA and dual-technology mobile operators, like Sistema Shyam, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices has revealed that the reserve price recommended by the regulator for auctioning the 800MHz airwave band could lead to doubling of call tariffs. TRAI has also been receiving opposition from COAI and telcos also put forth that this may lead to increase in the tariff.

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