The Internet has come an integral part of our everyday lives. We can’t even imagine a day without it. Surprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated Internet adoption faster than ever before. Today, we need the Internet for all basic day-to-day activities, whether it is for work from home or a child studying from home, or for live video conferencing with friends and relatives in different parts of the world, or for accessing entertainment activities via OTT platforms and social media.
However, India which is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world disappoints in terms of Internet speed. According to the Ookla global index, India stands at 122 out of 139 countries in terms of mobile broadband speed and 68 out of 180 in terms of fixed broadband speed. As of July 2021, India has mobile broadband download speeds of 17.77 Mbps and fixed broadband download speeds of 60.06 Mbps.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released its recommendations on “Roadmap to Promote Broadband Connectivity and Enhanced Broadband Speed”. TRAI wants the Indian government to look into issues such as India’s current Internet scenario, minimum broadband speed, infrastructure creation, and promoting broadband connectivity.
Let’s have a look into the salient features of the recommendations by TRAI:
- The definition of broadband has been reviewed by TRAI officials, and the minimum download speed for broadband connectivity in India has been increased fourfold, from the present 512 Kbps to 2 Mbps.
- Fixed broadband is divided into three categories based on download speeds: Basic, Fast and Super-Fast.
(i) Basic Broadband which can serve up to five online individuals simultaneously while accessing light applications with a download speed ranging from 2 Mbps to 50 Mbps.
(ii) Fast Broadband which can serve up to five online individuals simultaneously while accessing moderate level applications with a download speed ranging from 50Mbps to 300 Mbps
(iii) Super-Fast Broadband is suitable for accessing high-use applications with a download speed greater than 300 Mbps. This would also be suitable for institutions such as hospitals, schools, business establishments, as well as IT professionals who are working from home using cloud-based resources.
- Indian government should consider reimbursing 50% of the monthly fixed-line broadband subscription charges, up to Rs. 200 per month per subscriber, to each rural fixed-line broadband subscriber through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) platform. Due to the fact that this will be in the form of DBT, users will receive the reimbursement directly in their linked bank accounts.
- TRAI Authority recommends that the government incentivize all broadband service providers in order to accelerate the growth of fixed-line broadband services in India. This incentive will be in the form of an exemption of license fee. However, the big service providers who have other revenue sources such as mobile services do not need to be incentivized.
- Smartphones have the potential to greatly facilitate the use of broadband services. Therefore, the authority have suggested that government can consider incentives for local device manufacturing which can further result in price cuts in mobile devices.
- In order to enhance mobile broadband speed in rural and remote areas, using BharatNet network, optical fiber connectivity with Service Level Agreements (SLA) should be made available to service providers for fiberisation of the cellular networks backhaul connectivity.
Food For Thought
The broadband subscriber base in India has significantly been increasing over the last 4-5 years. Between 2016 and 2020, the country has witnessed a 33% CAGR growth in the broadband subscriber base. As of June 2021, there are approximately 792.78 million broadband subscribers in India. About 44.6% of these comes from rural India. This is the reason India currently has the second-highest online population in the world, accounting for more than 10% of the world’s total internet users.