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Beyond the bull: Telecoms and ISPs

Time to disconnect from the bull

ISPs and Telecom companies aren’t really known for their great track record when it comes to providing you a good service or being honest about their offerings. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when it comes to misleading marketing terms and advertising, there’s a ton here to be explained. Without further ado, lets head in.

Unlimited Plans

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This is the biggest bare-faced lie told by telecom operators and internet service providers. When you offer a fixed usage limit, there is no justifiable reason to refer to that plan as “unlimited”. How do they get away with this? They usually offer ridiculously throttled connectivity after the usage limits have been hit. Thus, a “10 Mbps unlimited” plan is misleading if after 10 GB it throttles to 128 Kbps. In fact, according to TRAI regulations, it is illegal to term plans as “unlimited”, if there are restrictions of any sort.

Throttling

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Throttling is the practice of slowing down the internet after a certain amount of usage. There is still a small trickle of connectivity available, which is frustratingly slow to use. This is actually a technique used by the ISPs and telecom operators to force users into paying for add-on packs. When the telecom operators do this, it is actually counterproductive. The way the cellular network works is that a city is divided into a grid of “cells”, where the telecom infrastructure is set up. Each cell can only support connections to a fixed number of devices at once. This is why if you go to crowded environments such as the Kumbh Mela or a rock concert, you are likely to face connectivity issues. Now, by keeping the connection alive and delivering the internet at slow speeds, cellular networks are actually decreasing the number of devices that they can support at the same time.

Fixed Usage charges

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Fixed usage charges are the main reason we do not have truly unlimited broadband plans in India. The claim is that a small section of users with unlimited plans was using the internet so much, that they were degrading the service for the other users. This explanation is utter BS! Why should the vast majority of users suffer because of the “overuse“ of the unlimited internet by a few?

Everybody stands to gain from high speed unlimited internet connections

The truth is that India has among the most restrictive plans in terms of data usage anywhere in the world. Countries such as Singapore, Korea or Hong Kong actually benefit tremendously economically by providing high-speed internet to their users, without any data caps.

512 kbps “broadband”

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), defines broadband as “A data connection using any technology that is able to support interactive services including Internet access and support a minimum download speed of 512 Kilobits per second (Kbps)”. This is in full knowledge that the minimum broadband speeds in countries around the world are usually specified at higher levels, between 1.5 Mbps to 4 Mbps. This just shows how slow moving the top telecom authority in the country is, and just how much it has to catch up on.

Not really broadband if you’re familiar with this

Fortunately, neither the consumers nor the ISPs care much for this outdated definition of broadband. However, to give a realistic indication of the actual speeds available from their connections, ISPs have to resort to the use of terms such as “high-speed broadband” or “ultrafast broadband”, which lack technical definitions. These terms end up just confusing end users.

Tower Radiation

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You know what is emits more radiation
than a cell tower? This banana tree

For once, the problem here is with the consumer and not the company. There is a widespread belief that cell phone towers cause cancer. Cell phone towers emit non-ionising radiation, the kind of radiation that is not known to cause cancer. For example, The UV light from the Sun actually causes cancer. As xkcd pointed out, the human body, a brick or a banana are all more radioactive than a cell phone tower. The unfounded fears have caused random takedowns of cell phone towers across the country. It does not help that radio hosts, TV anchors and ignorant journalists all amplify the fears. The infrastructure is dismantled, or the power supply is cut. Local politicians, resident bodies or at times even the municipalities can go around taking down cellular infrastructure. This creates holes in the network that can take years to replace. Telecom service providers have resorted to setting up “less scary looking” telecom towers, to reduce the fears of radiation. These random takedowns of cellular infrastructure have contributed to the call drop problem. In the end, the consumer suffers from their own ignorance.

Not providing stated speeds

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ISPs often do not provide the advertised speeds according to their plans. According to TRAI regulations, the actual speeds should not drop below 80 percent of the advertised speeds. However, this is not the case, and users have reported a wide variety in the kinds of speeds that they actually get. This is not a problem for short durations, or intermittent periods. There are some ISPs that consistently provide speeds that are lower than the promised speeds, and fleecing their customers in the process. Speak up if you’re a customer of such an ISP.

Aditya Madanapalle

Aditya Madanapalle

An avid reader of the magazine, who ended up working at Digit after studying journalism, game design and ancient runes. When not egging on arguments in the Digit forum, can be found playing with LEGO sets meant for 9 to 14-year-olds.