Digital India: Internet speed is the first big obstacle, finds VOICE study
A recently concluded study conducted by Voluntary Organisation in the Interest of Consumer Education (VOICE) has revealed that the internet speed provided to users across the country is far below what is claimed by their respective service providers. The study concludes that India is amongst the countries with the lowest internet speed in the world.
Titled Assessment of Impact of Quality of Internet Services on Internet Users, the study also establishes that consumers are not able to distinguish between poor, average and good quality of service. The findings are backed with inputs from 52,000 internet users across 19 states of India. Apart from assessing the impact of quality of internet services delivered to its consumers, the study has also outlined the shortcomings and impediments that service providers need to work upon, as well as interventions required of government bodies including the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
The study measured the actual wirelesss internet speeds and found that he average 3G speeds were only 1.5 mbps, while 4G provided an average speed of just about 4.10 mbps – the lowest in the world. As per international norms, 4G speeds are supposed to be between 40mbps and 150 mbps, which means Indian telecom companies that are claiming to be providing 4G technology are actually delivering 3G speeds.
During the study, the VOICE team tried to analyse users’ perception of various parameters of quality of internet, impact of internet on various aspects of life including ease of accessing services like banking and medical, or sociocultural and sociopolitical engagements through online networks and information mediums, as well as its utility in empowering marginalised communities and those with special needs. The report states that despite low speed, internet is playing a significant role in almost all aspects of people’s lives.
Assessing the quality of internet service (QoIS), the report concludes that ‘quality of internet’ is synonymous with the ‘speed of internet’ for common people, and that reliability, availability, costs and customer support by service providers are not perceived to be as significant as the speed while choosing the service provider. VOICE has shared the following recommendations with TRAI:
• For better quality of speed, a mandatory disclosure of average download speed should be made, which must be met/provided at least 95 per cent of the times the service is being used.
• Internet service providers (ISPs) should include a speed measurement tool in their apps and maintain a record of average speed during the day, week and month.
• ISPs should disclose minimum and maximum speeds on daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis, and compensate consumers for failing to adhere to average download speeds and down time. TRAI should create a mechanism for compensation for quantifiable losses below the benchmark.
• ISPs must declare minimum speeds at the time of selling plans.
• TRAI’s MySpeed App should be made more robust and user-friendly. It should be able to provide speed comparisons for each base transceiver station (BTS) and also show comparisons of ISPs at given BTS.