TELCOs – BT

Telcos may have to disclose actual broadband speeds

IDA is also proposing they not be allowed to block legitimate content and services

CONSUMERS could get a better idea of the real Internet broadband speeds they are paying for, instead of the maximum speeds advertised by service providers.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) issued a consultation paper yesterday seeking feedback on new policy recommendations it plans to put in place. And one recommendation is a new requirement for telcos to disclose real or average speeds consumers can expect with their broadband plans. While telcos typically advertise theoretical maximum speeds, these are rarely achievable due to various factors such as network congestion and peak consumer traffic times.

IDA said it aims to improve transparency so consumers can make informed choices about Internet services. The regulator also said: ‘(The recommendations) seek to protect consumer interests by ensuring that fierce competition in the market does not lead to Internet service providers (ISPs) or telecom network operators degrading the Internet access service quality to end-users, in their bid to compete on price or to lower cost.’

Telcos are also not to block legitimate content and services, said IDA. For example, they will not be able to block voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) applications such as Skype, which might cannibalise their voice revenues.

IDA is, however, allowing ISPs to throttle or slow down such services to manage service-level quality across their users, but they must disclose any such moves to consumers. ISPs are also allowed to provide premium-tier services – for example, a dedicated line for streaming video or other such bandwidth-intensive applications.

Once finalised, the recommendations will be made either as part of a directive to telcos here or included in legislation. IDA has not spelled out how prominently service providers will have to disclose their quality of service (QoS) levels.

The new policies will likely cover mobile broadband providers as well as the new players that will accompany the debut of the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network.

IDA already monitors fixed-line broadband QoS service levels and has a minimum set of availability and latency requirements for telcos to meet.

SingTel and StarHub said they will review the consultation paper and submit responses. The closing date for views and comments to be submitted to IDA is Dec 16.

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