07 Jul

Indian telecom voice market and updates

Suddenly the voice market in India is becoming very interesting. Earlier it was the case of Jio (and competitors) launching unlimited voice plans and now it’s the case of Govt. of India permitting IP telephony.
IP Telephony i.e networks where telephony happens over IP (not to be confused with IP to IP calls but) where IP to PSTN interconnects happen. Till a few months ago IP telephony (or IP-PSTN) interconnection was allowed only under certain conditions like doing it inside a building only for purpose of call centres (with OSP license) or running SIP trunks over private networks. Things like termination of calls originated from the apps was not allowed (where IP-PSTN was happening within India) as well as DID or Direct Inward Dialing numbers were not allowed. There were even cases where apps/businesses had to shut down due to confusing regulation. Here’s a nice article from Medianama about it. But all those were things of past.
In May Wifi calling or calls via Wifi where wifi is used loosely and it’s essentially called via any sort of Internet connections were permitted (news here). Later after TRAI’s clarification it now has been formally allowed. While it may not look as attractive as it should have been in the age of WhatsApp calling (IP to IP, not PSTN mess involved!), it still is quite interesting and going to bring some major change.
Here some of the upcoming things we all can expect to see in the next few months:

  1. All key operators will launch native wifi call offload for flagship phones (Google Pixel, iPhone, Samsung Galaxy’s etc). This will offload a hell lot of voice traffic from the cell towards home wifi. Various fixed wired ISPs would now be carrying a significant chunk of voice traffic.
  2. All key operators will launch an app for making phone calls and it would not only be for their users but also for other users. So while at this point one has to have a SIM card from the provider, next it would be sim card as well as “virtual connection” in form of a sort of KYC followed by an app essentially making use of SIP for call routing.
  3. SIP trunks over IP networks will become common and that would be huge. In present times if someone needed 5-10 connections for official use with call haunting etc, it was either POTS analogue phones or PRIs (yuck!) or SIP trunks running over the private network. Going forward now it would be SIP trunks offered over the regular internet all would be facilitated via closed systems (apps and portals) as well as open systems based on SIP. This would help significantly to businesses which have direct customer interaction.
  4. Market of DIDs or 10 digit virtual phone numbers will become very common. Telcos would be offering it directly and various platforms like Microsoft’s Skype, Google Voice, Vonage etc would also join in and resell those.

An interesting case of above is BSNL’s recent announcement of their platform “Wings”. Though based on their usual track record of totally screwing up, I would keep my expectations low, but still offering seems interesting and gives an idea of the updated regulatory framework.

15 Feb

Sify broadband or fraudband?!!

I was just looking into available broadband options in my home city (Rohtak). I occasionally do that out of curiosity.

I came across Sify broadband and interesting thing this time was – they seem to have renovated their website!

Here’s the new site. I tried looking into available home plans applicable for my home city.

Last plan – 1Mbps unlimited usage plan for just 898Rs a month. At first glance an unlimited 1Mbps for just 900Rs a month seems quite nice, but as we can see double stars, I was quite sure that it must be having a Fair Usage Policy. I scrolled to bottom of page, and found this message associated with ** – Only in Select Locations

Only this? So is 1Mbps plan is truly an unlimited plan? I tried looking into FAQ and found answer:

Most Internet service providers enforce a fair usage policy to control the data downloading limit. After you download a particular amount of data, either you are charged   extra or your speed become lower than before. While they call the product �Unlimited�, an FUP which comes as a special condition takes away the real purpose of the product.
We at sify practice what we preach. None of our unlimited products have a ceiling on downloads. So we do not enforce restrictive/ fair usage policy on our customers.

Well, this was just unexpected. So they are claiming that their plans are “truly” unlimited without any download caps. Impressive!

Next, I went into link given on footer – “Manual Of Practice” and found this:

Policy : For those heavy users who however continue to remain on unlimited products the following rate shall apply :Usage on unlimited service packs will be considered as one calendar day or 150MB in a day whichever is earlier. If the usage exceeds 150 MB in a day, one day in validity will be reduced for every 25 MB of usage beyond 150 MB. This is explained in detail as follows:Upto 150 MB utilization in each day…..No deduction of days validity For every 25 MB utilization beyond 150 MB within each day, one days validity will be reduced.

WHAT WHAT WHAT??? That’s big cheating!

Even worst then this….

I have seen many ISP’s claiming “truly” unlimited and later capping down speeds after certain level, but this one is just crazy! 1day for each 25MB!

What the hell is FUP and do we really need it?

Ok, let me come to point – FUP is simply Fair Usage Policy meaning a policy to have “fair usage”. Fair interms of broadband networks just mean that users do not put excessive load on “shared” network that it effects other user’s experience. In India most of consumer based broadband networks have a contention ratio of 1:30 to 1:50 – which means whatever ISP’s sell is actually shared between 30 or 50 users simultaneously.

I have seen FUP policy of US based ISP’s like Comcast, Verizon etc. They have a capping of speeds or just temporary suspension of service when user crosses a limit of like ~200GB a month range. To be true – 200GB a month is surely very big number and (home) users can’t really touch that unless they really use connection in super bad manner. Now, when it comes to India – a cap of 150MB a day (here in case of sify) is just shameful!  Even a youtube video takes like 25MB. So watching just 6 youtube videos is like “putting pressure on network” even when ISP is claiming big with – “On demand video”… It’s just like

Is Sify’s network so much degraded and of such a low quality by excessive overselling that they can’t handle traffic more then just 150MB/day?

If yes – then either they should invest $$$ to improve or just get out of this business. I wish TRAI and doT were more serious for broadband also (apart from telecom stuff).

With hope that things will eventually get better, time to say bye!

Have a uncapped year ahead 🙂

18 Dec

TRAI's big budget plan for National Broadband – my analysis

Recently TRAI i.e Telecom Regulatory Authority of India came with National Broadband Plan for India. I tried looking into it, and it’s just not making much sense at all.

The Plan…

TRAI’s plan is to put massive infrastructure – basically over 12 billion Km’s of Fiber Optic cable connecting whole India. Plan covers 63 large cities, 4315 small cities & around 3,75,552 villages which have a population of over 500. Intention is to have a heavy backbone across country, which will bring more competition in Indian broadband industry.

Do we really need it?

Simple answer – NO!
While making this recommendation, it seems like TRAI has almost forgotten that Govt. owns a State operator named BSNL which presently owns the biggest domestic backbone of India, with fibers connecting around 400, 000 of villages. In recommendation, they also mentioned that this building a new fiber network will help in having a scalable backbone, and aims to provide speeds of 10Mbps to users in cities while at least 2Mbps to users in villages. This again makes no sense at all!
In reality, the fact is – over 70-80% of existing fiber pairs of BSNL (call it Govt.) are yet not lit, and those dark fibres have a tremendous bandwidth. In fact if we add the total cables by all private players in India, it reaches hardly 1million route km of fiber cables, while BSNL itself owns over half of million route Km of fiber cables. With that, we can clearly say that we have enough bandwidth on domestic backbone of country. It is NOT in hold by private players, but is not in use to due super poor management work of BSNL, Political factors and lobbying by Private carriers. The latest part is decision by BSNL to auction off the capacity on those line!
One interesting point is in most of links, BSNL is hardly using 10-20% of capacity of fibre, still BSNL MPLS seems to be collapsing. Reason remains political and other non-technical stuff. Apart from that, this is just about the (domestic) backbone capacity. We need to see the other 3 parts also, which are real bottleneck.
Firstly, last mile in India remains an issue. Over 80% of copper is still in hands of BSNL, and quality is poor. The hosting problem in India continues with over ~80% sites not hosted in India. Which is causing super high usage of International bandwidth which is mostly responsible for super poor capping in broadband connections. The doT seems performing even more poor in peering policies.Govt. actually started with niXi i.e National Internet Exchange of India to promote domestic peering. It was a very good initiative, but seems like it didn’t worked due to poor tariff policy.
My recommendations to fix broadband problems with *existing* technologies:

  1. Take BSNL seriously. DO NOT FORGET it’s govt. company and thus Govt. owns biggest telco infrastructure in country. All actions regarding build of infrastructure SHOULD be taken ONLY via BSNL.
    It makes no sense at all to bring more bodies/companies/departments into this. Seems funny? Seriously, that’s real!
  2. Be serious for last mile connectivity. Put more pressure on BSNL to fix the last mile. Even a small budget can fix most of existing copper infrastructure which can be used for ~20Mbps broadband connectivity via DSL.
  3. Based on Mr Sam Pitroda’s recommendation – unbundle the last mile copper pairs of country and make those available to private players who will help in removing the monopoly of State owned telco.
  4. Stop jokes about spectrum and 3G. The 5Mhz spectrum given in last auction was more or less just a joke. Based on low ARPU’s private players are all looking into wireless connectivity. 3G can help in improving broadband penetration, while technologies like WiMax can really make BIG difference. Be serious, and give more spectrum to improve last mile link.
  5. Fix the peering policies of niXi. Make sure charging is based on port speed rather the amount of data transfered. The per GB cost via niXi still seems very high.
  6. Put a good amount of money on building big data centers in India. Probably 4 – North, South, East & West, and have offer very cheap web hosting services including collocation, shared hosting, dedicated servers, vps etc via BSNL. In fact BSNL does already offers that, but offering is all outdated, and they don’t have good data centers yet.
    Apart from that, Govt. should give high incentives to private companies coming in data center business to bring more and more content in India, which will drastically reduce costs. Remember, International bandwidth costs ~50times more then domestic bandwidth and fact remains that over 80% of sites an average Indian visits uses that expensive bandwidth!

Govt. should ask this question itself  – Is broadband a one of basic needs of Indian citizens, if yes, then put $$$ in fixing it in good way, if not then keep on making good $$$ from crazy auctions and poor policies.
With hope that next time you will be on better connection, thanks for your visit.