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Broadband

The TRCSL, in response to public opinion that HSPA services do not provide the speeds advertised, commenced a process of monitoring and found that such opinion is justified and has introduced new guidelines on advertising speeds of mobile broadband services. These guidelines have been formulated considering all aspects of mobile broadband services....

GUIDELINES TO MOBILE BROADBAND OPERATORS - Follow this link to view or download the guidelines

The TRCSL, in response to public opinion that HSPA services do not provide the speeds advertised, commenced a process of monitoring and found that such opinion is justified and has introduced new guidelines on advertising speeds of mobile broadband services. These guidelines have been formulated considering all aspects of mobile broadband services directing broadband providers to provide fair and correct information to the public when offering services.

It is observed that the ISPs tend to advertise theoretical peak speeds of the HSPA technology in mobile broadband services, for commercial advantages thereby deceiving the prospective user. However achieving these speeds in reality would not be possible. The achievable speed or the usable speed could be much lower than the speeds advertised by the operators. Sometimes it drops more than 60% from the peak speed advertised by the operator in their marketing materials.

MOBILE BROADBAND SPEEDS

The advertising speed is the data transferring speed of a service which advertised by the Internet service providers (ISP) during their marketing. The advertising speed may vary from few kilobits per second (kbps) to several megabytes per second (Mbps) depending on the grade of the service and the technology. Unlike the basic versions of ADSL and WiMax, the HSPA (High Seed Packet Access) and HSPA+ (HSPA Evolved) are known to be empowered with high speed bandwidth capabilities. The speed goes up to 168Mbps or 288Mbps in UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband) and this is many times higher the capabilities of other technologies which available in the market.

This numeric speed figure or the advertised speed is the single most significant component in any service which indicates the speed capability of a service. Thus higher the value greater the market value it holds. This condition leads service providers to advertise their products tagged with extremely high hypothetical speeds purely for the purpose of attracting customers. But achieving these speeds especially in a wireless network based on HSPA technology would not be possible in reality.

TRCSL HAS CONDUCTED FIELD TESTS

The field tests conducted by the TRCSL jointly with 3G operators has discovered that approximately 40% to 50% from the total advertised bandwidth of HSPA+ known as headline speed or the peak speed, could be received in an ideal condition (-50dBm to -65dBm) (64QAM) closer to the tower possibly with a single user or less number of subscribers attached to the tower. These tests were carried out using HSPA+ dongles which is designed to be handled speeds up to 21Mbps. The same degradation of service has also been witnessed in HSPA services with advertising bandwidth of 3.6Mbps. In this case the maximum achievable speed was around 1.9 to 2.4Mbps (3.6Mbps supported Dongle) in a tower where it capable of supplying speeds up to 3.6Mbps. Subsequently tower(s) with 12Mbps was tested using a Dongle which is capable of 7.2Mbps and received an average of 4.3Mbps in the down link.

REALISTIC SPEEDS MUST BE USED IN MARKETING

The speeds are only theoretical and the figures advertised by the service providers are not available for the consumption of users. Hence advertising these speeds in any form such as “up to” or with similar phrase would give an idea to the subscribers to believe that the speed advertised is real and achievable. This condition is misleading. So to prevent such things from happening TRCSL has taken prompt measures and issued guidelines for Cellular mobile broadband operators in the country.

The outline of new guidelines is as follows:

  • Broadband packages should not be advertised without describing the specific technology it use for the delivery
  • The speed advertised must be realistic and achievable. The achievable speed must be incorporated with the package and not the theoretical upper limit.
  • If the operators are advertising speed above 3.6Mbps in 3G HSAP or in any future technology, the majority (over75%) towers should be capable of supplying the particular speed to the subscribers.
  • In provisioning of bandwidth services below 3.8Mbps, the service provider should locked the bandwidth at the ceiling speed of the product.
  • The operators are allowed to be advertised any realistic speed above 3.6Mbps in location wise. In such case maps and other genuine and correct information must be supplied to the customers.
  • Dongles or any other terminal equipment use to access the Internet should not be locked unless in situations which is specified by the regulator.
The complete set of guidelines can be found at:...

However the operators are permitted to describe and explain the technology which has been deployed for the delivery of services. For example the operator can announce the deployment of HSPA+ technology with 21Mbps theoretical speed capabilities. However by any means this should not be indicated or misinterpreted to the subscribers to believe that this figure is practical and realistic. The unrealistic nature of this figure must be clearly explained for the knowledge of the public instead of employing this directly or indirectly for the purpose of marketing.

COMPLIANCE OF MOBILE BROADBAND OPERATORS

The TRCSL is pleased note that the mobile broadband operators have expressed agreement with these guidelines and have taken immediate actions to comply with them. This course of action from the mobile broadband operators is commendable and it shows their readiness to play the fair-broker’s role that helps to create a better trade environment in the country.

AS FIXED SERVICES EVOLVES THE NECESSITY RISING FOR SIMILAR ACTION

During the last eight years in Sri Lanka the bandwidth evolution of fixed services is not significant as is in the HSPA services. The effect of low bandwidth (Speed limited to 4 Mbps) in fixed services was that the speed of access could be maintained for some given distance from the exchange, beyond which there would be a degradation. However, with the introduction of ADSL2 and ADSL2+, a significant impairment of speed commences within a low distance from the exchange (The theoretical speed is 24 Mbps) and the speed provided to the customer will vary from the theoretical maximum for most of the subscribers, like the HSPA services.

By considering these factors, TRCSL has now focused its attention to develop a set of guidelines to prevent fixed operators from using theoretical speak speeds in their marketing.