India has become the fastest growing smartphone market in the world, but broadband internet speeds in the country don’t seem to be growing with similar haste. According to Akamai’s latest “State of the Internet” report, India ranks lowest among all South-East Asian countries when it comes to average broadband speeds with a lowly 2.0Mbps.
According to the latest data released by TRAI, the country’s broadband user base shot past the 80 million subscriber mark at the end of November 2014, with 80.93% of those accessing the Internet via mobile devices. Wired subscribers stood at 15.23 million, while there were 66.56 million wireless subscribers, with a total of 82.22 million broadband subscribers in the country.
Further, broadband speeds in the country registered a 0.5% quarter-over-quarter growth according to the Akamai report, far from the record 49% increase registered by Indonesia. However, broadband speeds were up by 29% year-on-year, well above the 20% average growth registered in the South-East Asian region.
The global average broadband speed stood at 4.5 Mbps during Q3, up from the 3.9Mbps global average clocked in the previous quarter. While even China registered a marginal 2.2% increase in speeds during Q3, it’s net speeds are closer to the global average at 3.8Mbps. India’s average on the other hand only meets the minimum broadband speed of 2Mbps prescribed by the Indian government.
Why wireless needs to be big in India?
Smartphone sales in the country grew by 81.8 percent during 2014, clocking in at 80 million units as compared to 44 million units sold in 2013. With bulk of India’s netizens already accessing the Internet via mobile, the disparity between the share of wired and wireless subscribers is only expected to grow. The National Telecom Policy 2012 suggests India’s broadband subscriber base will grow to 175 million by 2017 and 600 million by 2020, most of whom will access the net via mobile devices.
As device manufacturers and service providers gear up for the full-scale roll-out of 4G LTE in India, average broadband speeds in the country should receive a much required shot in the arm. However, with fast mobile net access expected to be limited to higher-end devices at first, that growth could take longer than expected. Once the technology trickles down to devices in the sub $100 range, the largest chunk of smartphone buyers in India, which should show some tangible results.
From the government’s perspective, the highly ambitious National Broadband Policy (NBP) could help boost the country’s average net speeds. Part of this plan is to bring high-speed Internet connectivity to 160 million households, while also connecting 2.5 lakh gram panchayats via the National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN). The policy has even been made part of PM Narendra Modi’s Digital India mission, which let’s hope doesn’t merely make it an easily forgotten tool of political propaganda.