As a result of the consultation process of TRAI with stakeholders on fixing benchmarks for the Quality of Service (QoS) for broadband service, some stakeholders, especially service providers, have pointed out the ineffectiveness of such benchmarks in an under-developed market like India.
“It is seen that compared to most of the countries in Asia and the West, where broadband usage is growing, our country still lags behind. As such, the focus right now should be on both supply side and demand side of the broadband market, that is, creating and deploying broadband-capable infrastructure in the country as well as stimulating the use of broadband in the country. We need to focus on creating the need and deployment of broadband in the country,” holds the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) and Reliance.
“Micro-regulation in broadband would inhibit its growth since it is a nascent market yet to experience the phenomenal growth that has been experienced in the Wireless market of India. At the present stage of broadband penetration in India, the regulation should be an enabler rather than an inhibitor. The area of focus at this stage should be clearly on creating a larger user base by setting additional user targets,” AUSPI and Reliance Infocomm observed.
Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) said, “Our experience in providing broadband services over the last several months have indicated that the biggest problem in delivering QoS is linked to adequate last mile access. There is an urgent need for policy initiatives by AUSPI and the Government to develop a solution for sustainable and cost effective last mile.”
Consumer Protection Association also held that, “It would also be unjust to impose QoS standards on operators in India where the provision of distant end circuits (national and / or international) is in the hands of a monopoly or oligopoly that will not match the QoS standards required by TRAI.”
According to REACH Ltd, “There should be no need for TRAI to mandate service standards as, again, this may force the exit of certain lower priced services that are actively sought by consumers – consumers who are highly knowledgeable about the quality of service they are acquiring and the adequacy of these services for the purposes required. However, where retail service providers either fail to provide Service Level Agreements (SLAs) or do not clearly set out the quality of service to be provided, then TRAI-determined QoS standards could be used as a default measure – with penalties and consumer compensation based on the level of monthly service charges.”
“It would not be appropriate for TRAI to attribute service failures to operators in India, where the circumstances giving rise to service failure are beyond operators’ control – for example, cable damage due to a ship dragging its anchor. Also, service providers should not be held accountable for service disruptions resulting from failures in capacity links they are instructed to use by the customer,” REACH Ltd held.
AUSPI and Reliance Infocomm also held that “Internet is a best effort service. It is the interconnecting of several networks worldwide that form the Internet. Many of these networks are proprietary and, therefore, their performance norms have to be complied with. This dependency on other networks and factors, therefore, makes it impossible to control the quality of service. Therefore, it would be unfair to put the load of a QoS benchmark on just one network.”
“We would like to reiterate that most of the countries do not regulate the QoS of broadband, and this is left to the market forces in the sector. In the Asia Pacific region, broadband is known to be regulated only in Malaysia and Singapore, where broadband was introduced about a decade back,” the AUSPI observed.
Aimed at accelerating the growth of broadband, the Government had issued the Broadband Policy in October 2004. The customer base of broadband stood at a meager 14 lakh by April 2006.
TRAI has noted that along with the increase in the number of customers, the number of consumer complaints pertaining to broadband services is also increasing. There is, therefore, a need to address the quality of service issues for broadband service. As a first step in this regard, TRAI proposes to lay down the benchmarks for quality of service standards for broadband, based on international practice and also through short time consultation with major stakeholders.