India is about to become truly digital in the next five years. The latest data from Cisco titled “Visual Networking Index (VNI) Complete Forecast” indicates that the total number of internet users in India will more than double from 373 million in 2016 to 829 million by 2021. For context, only 28% of our current population constitute internet users. By 2021, this number will more than double to 59%.
India is going through an internet revolution at the moment. The average internet speed in India has seen an 87% YoY increase in Q1 2017 over the last year. A lot of the credit for this has to go to Reliance Jio. Jio’s disruptive launch less than a year ago brought 4G to the masses, and prices came crashing down. Since then we have seen a rapid increase in the Internet speed and the number of internet users in India. That is not all has happened, as coverage has also increased significantly. The availability of high-speed 4G internet is clocking 81.56% of the time, as Jio remain well on track of their goal to achieve 99% coverage in India by the end of 2017.
Increasing access to faster and high bandwidth networks is spurring audio/video and multimedia content consumption, which typically accounts for higher traffic levels. As a result, overall IP traffic is expected to grow from 1.7 Exabytes per month in 2016, to 6.5 Exabytes per month in 2021, at a CAGR of 30%. This growth will be driven by video, whose dominance in terms of data consumption is only set to increase. Video represented 57% of total internet traffic in 2016, and this number is set to inflate up to a whopping 76% by 2021. This will translate to a mammoth 84 billion minutes of Internet video viewed per month by 2021!
As the number of internet users in India is growing at a paid pace, a large majority of this growth is expected to be fueled by mobile devices. As we previously reported, mobile devices now account for 92.8% of all broadband connections in India. In a time when elite markets like the US are saturating, and mobile penetration in India on the rise, it looks like mobile adoption is going to drive internet user growth in the near future. The sheer popularity of the mobile internet in India indicates that mobile and internet growth go hand in hand here.
Of course, there are quite a few hurdles on the path to Digital India. Despite the improvement in recent months, we have repeatedly reported on the poor quality of internet in India. India stands at the second last position when it comes to the average internet speed in APAC. The situation is similar when it comes to the average 4G speed, which is closer to the average 3G speed by global standards. The infrastructure needs reinforcement and improvement if it is to support the kind of traffic that is expected in the coming years as India goes digital.