There is a phenomenal growth in the country’s Internet users due to the increased availability of smartphones, tablets, high speed mobile data and technologies like broadband. India’s mobile using population is expected to cross the 1 billion mark by 2020. The number of internet users in India is currently about 450 million to 465 million which is a 4%-8% increase from 432 million in Dec 2016. Until recently, the high speed connectivity was expensive and was exclusive to metros and a few larger cities. As per data from TRAI, over 89 million people are coming online for the first time. 9 out of 10 new Internet users are non-English speakers and rural users accounted for 35 per cent of India’s Internet community.
In May 2017, Vodafone made headlines with the launch of its Super WiFi Go service for businesses across the nation. The service is targeted at segments like education, hospitality, restaurants, healthcare, government, retail, BFSI and manufacturing. Further, ISRO also launched three satellites with an aim to provide high speed internet in India. In addition, Facebook rolled out its Express WiFi project in India which will help in empowering the local entrepreneurs to make a steady income by providing quality internet access to the neighbors. Bharti Airtel has also joined in to help with the launch of another 20,000 hotspots in the country.
In July, TRAI announces its plans to set up a hotspot WiFi network across the country with an aim to provide Internet connectivity at cheaper rates than the current mobile networks. In addition to the above mentioned efforts, the latest initiatives by the Government will give an ideal push to increasing Internet connectivity in semi urban and rural areas.
India’s Department of Telecom is looking forward to invite tenders for the setting up of WiFi hubs across village panchayats in order to bolster the Internet connectivity across the nation. According to the reports, the $568.8 million project is slated to be completed by the end of 2019. As a part of this initiative, the government is preparing to launch broadband services with a high speed of around 1000 megabit per second which is 1 Gbps in nearly 100k gram panchayats by the end of 2017. The tender is expected to be rolled out immediately and the plan is to roll out the WiFi services in 100K gram panchayats in a year and the remaining by 2019.
This new development is a part of the ambitious BharatNet project by the Government which aims to bring Internet connectivity to the country’s gram panchayats by March 2019. The first phase of this program involved the rollout of broadband services in 100K gram panchayats which was completed in July 2017. Originally, a budget of $6.4 billion was sanctioned by the cabinet and out of this; $2.8 billion has been allocated to the second phase. These initiatives are in line with the Government’s new telecom policy which plans to increase the internet access to 700 million people from the current 300 million by 2022.