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TESTS TO START BEFORE MAY POLLS

NTC sets minimum mobile broadband speed at 256 kbps


Telecos and internet service providers (ISPs) will have to ensure the connectivity of mobile devices clocks in at 256 kilobits per second (kbps), according to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The commission is mandating a minimum speed of 256 kbps and will start testing the speeds advertised by telcos and ISPs before the May 2016 elections.

Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said the NTC has set a minimum speed of 256 kbps for fixed broadband in a previous memorandum circular (MC). It will be the same for mobile broadband service.

"This MC is a sequel of the first MC. 'Yung definition, 'yung first, at least 256kbps. We will adopt the same for mobile broadband," Cabarios told reporters in Quezon City.

The NTC defines mobile broadband service as "the internet or broadband service accessible by mobile devices using wireless mobile networks."

It defines mobile devices as "any device that has the capability of accessing mobile networks, and whose inherent design enables it to be portable and is not inherently designed to be located permanently or semi-permanently," unlike the fixed broadband services such as the DSL, fiber, and cable connections.

Such devices include USB dongles, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, cellular phones, and tablet PCs (personal computers) with subscriber identification modules (SIMs).

The NTC will release the rules covering the minimum speeds for services advertised as mobile broadband next week after taking into account the feedback from various stakeholders.

"For feedback, we will try our best to have this promulgated by end of this week or early next week. Perhaps we can review around Monday or Tuesday next week," he said.

Mixed reactions

Various shareholders who attending the hearing in the NTC headquarters in Quezon City had mixed opinions regarding this.?

"There are some misses in the rules for fixed broadband... (T)hat should be polished first before pushing through with the MC for mobile broadband," a representative from the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) said.

Another stakeholder present was Democracy.Net.Ph—an NGO focused on information and communication technologies (ICT)—co-founder Pierre Tito Galla, who fully welcomed the proposed rules.

"We accept the draft memo on mobile broadband its entirety and hope it gets promulgated soon," he said.

Likewise, think tank LIRNEasia expressed support and said that the group will urge subscribers to actively participate and volunteer their services for the testing and monitoring.

"We can encourage more people to actively participate in the monitoring process," Mary Grace Santos, an independent researcher for the firm said.

Final draft

"The final draft will be ready by tomorrow and then, kung wala nang problema, we will promulgate by Tuesday next week," he said.

Cabarios said the NTC targets to test internet speeds of telcos and ISPs in mobile devices before the election period set in May.

"The test will be used for both fixed and mobile broadband. It will be made available if walang hitch along the way, ma-complete yung process before the election month. Kung meron, it will go beyond the election month so June," Cabarios said.

The NTC started testing internet speeds in the country after customers have complained of connections running slower than what was advertised by the companies.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has already proposed stricter fines for ISPs that fail to deliver on their promised connection speeds.

"We had a discussion with the Committee on Trade. There is a proposal to amend the Consumer Act, including penalties," DTI adjudication officer Ronald Calderon said.

In the proposal, companies found guilty will have to face criminal penalties and administrative fines ranging from P50,000 to P1 million.

The current fines are P1,000 to P5,000 for criminal penalties while administrative penalties range from P500 to P300,000.

"We're still reviewing these proposals," Calderon said. – VS/NB, GMA News

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