Indian Broadband’s Mbit Eyewash

The state of broadband in India is a rather saddening affair. Any connection that is above 256 Kbps either costs over a thousand rupees per month or it involves download caps which will make the whole point of using it like how broadband is meant to be used out of the question.

The problem exists on two fronts: 1) Pricing – which is unaffordable for a vast majority of Indians, thus standing in the way of broadband penetration 2) Data transfer limits, which eventually wind up as (1) when you exceed the usage limits. Till recently, the telcos have been chastised by TRAI and other bodies for often trying to sell narrowband as broadband. The telcos responded to it by upping the speeds and putting in insane limits to usage which will only enable the user to use the high speed connection as a narrowband line if they are not to spend vast amounts of money paying off their bills.

Now, if you think paying more will make the plan any better, you are gravely mistaken. Airtel recently announced a 16Mbit plan (Speed Combo 2999) for their residential connections. The plan will cost you Rs 2999 per month, with a data transfer limit of 20 GB per month. This roughly translates into about 600 MB worth of data transfered per day. You can easily and legitimately burn up 600MB worth of data in a day if you are fond of watching a lot of multimedia content (on sites like Youtube) and download a lot of podcasts.

Every additional MB on top of that transfer will wind up costing you 50 paise per MB. So let us assume that you go over it by 100 MB every day, which is a trivial thing to happen on a 16Mbit line. That is an additional charge of Rs 50 per day, adding up to a cool Rs 1500 on top of that. If you double the additional transfer (hey, this is high speed line, it is meant to be used for data-heavy situations) to 1200 MB, that is Rs 300 per day, adding up to an additional bill of Rs 9000 per month. You can see where we are going with this.

The point that I am trying to make is that most of these big bang Mbit plans don't have any real use case beyond being nice sound bytes for the telcos. They will sell it to you saying it is meant to be used for multimedia and all that jazz, but if you really wind up using it for that, it will burn up a crater in your pocket. They should really price it more realistically and get the caps too to a realistic level or make it unmetered.