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State-run telco BSNL has increased its Fair Usage Policy (FUP) speed limits in all postpaid broadband connections to 1 mbps, from the previous 512 kbps limit. This was notified to customers via an injected HTML ad (attached below).

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All postpaid broadband plans including the combo, flexi, and unlimited plans are now automatically upgraded to  minimum FUP of 1 mbps, and 2 mbps for certain combo plans. In addition, some broadband plans will also receive more bundled data. (List of BSNL plans here). Note that the 1 mbps FUP limit also applies to its promotional unlimited broadband plan for Rs 249.

Earlier, BSNL had increased the minimum broadband speed to 2 mbps from 512 kbps in September 2015. Customers received the upgrade at zero-costs. However at that time, the 2 mbps speed applied to pre-FUP data consumption following which speeds were throttled to 512 kbps.

Minimum speeds and FUP regulations in India

In August, India’s telecom regulator TRAI had recommended setting the minimum broadband speed to 2 mbps from the existing 512 kbps. This according to TRAI was will lead to more jobs, trigger more innovation, increase competitiveness and increase the GDP by up to 0.3%.

TRAI used to consider the minimum broadband speed in India as 512 kbps but it had once issued a consultation paper in September 2014 which proposed increasing the minimum speed to 2 mbps. But we have not seen any significant improvement in overall speeds yet, as Akamai reports continue to suggest that India’s Interned speeds is lowest in APAC region.

In January, TRAI put out a paper directed towards all telecom service providers providing broadband, wireline or wireless services, to provide accurate information when FUP is applied. This was issued after several broadband providers were found selling FUP plans as “unlimited plans”.  We have reported before how almost every internet service provider imposes an FUP without full disclosure, and at times even advertising it as unlimited plans.

Broadband numbers

TRAI’s recent telecom subscription numbers shows that number of wired broadband subscribers stood at 17.49 million connections, compared to a whopping 148.93 million in wireless broadband connections (including mobile and dongle connections). This shows that India depends primarily upon wireless connection offered by mobile operators for its Internet.

Interestingly, TRAI’s data also shows that BSNL has a majority (57%) of the 17.49 million wired broadband connections, closely followed by Airtel (15.26%) and MTNL (14.12%) . This means that state run entities including BSNL and MTNL combined owns 71.18% of the wired broadband connection in India.

But this is changing: numbers shows that BSNL and MTNL lost 160,794 wired connections between May to July 2016. On the other had Airtel added 24,874 wired connection between the same time frame. Note that Airtel had earlier suggested setting 64 kbps as FUP speeds for both mobile and wired, although TRAI suggested setting this at 512 kbps. More here.

What the government is doing

It was reported that under Bharat Broadband Network Limited, the government successfully laid optical fibre in 59,503 gram panchayats till September 2016. The original plan which was to provide 100 Mbps connectivity to 50,000 gram panchayats by March 2016; this has been allegedly revised to provide between 2-10 mbps connections. The govt aims to connect 90,000 villages by fiscal 2017 end.

Interestingly, in an agreement  made with Bharat Broadband Network Limited earlier in 2014, Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) details that the target was to reach 250,000 gram panchayats within two years time (from 2011). USOF is a fund set up by the government in 2002 to be utilized for providing telecommunications services in rural areas at subsided rates. It recently awarded Rs 1250 Cr as subsidy to BSNL.