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India: A report on Internet usage and growth opportunities

Guest post from:

Arvind Mathur, Corporate Consulting Engineer, Research & Advanced Development

Internet is at an inflection point in India and the market is well-positioned for massive adoption as efforts of various stakeholders start to converge and gather momentum: Government (Spectrum, Policies, Mandates, National Broadband Network, Regulation), Industry (3G and 4G networks, fiber access, Public Private Partnerships, content/application development, new business models); Consumers (fueled by strong uptake of social networking and entertainment services, adoption of Smart Devices), and Enterprises (internet-based business services, collaboration, cloud services). The convergence of technologies and convergence of users is setting up the stage for India’s Internet horizon.

India has massive potential for Internet growth, but in an environment that is challenged by limited infrastructure, affordability issues and accessibility in terms of India-centric content and applications delivered in local languages.  The total wireless subscriber base is now close to 900 million in the country.

This hyper-growth in the mobility sector underscores

a)     the latent subscriber demand that was previously un-met by wireline access,

b)    the importance of wireless technologies for vast coverage across varied terrain profiles that is deployed in dramatically shortened timelines,

c)     that India is very sensitive to cost and affordability of telecom services – and that as a market it can support massive uptake in growth – provided service providers have the right services at the right price-points, and

d)    that innovation in business models across the value-chain is key to market sustainability and profitability. Clearly, India has developed into a ‘mobile-first economy’. The challenge and opportunity for India is thus: how do we now replicate the unparalleled success of mobility for the Internet?

Internet usage in India

The latest Internet subscriber count now stands at 23 million*1. However, importantly the ‘mobility revolution’ of recent times has had a very positive impact on the growth of ‘wireless data’ subscribers and estimates put the number of wireless data subscribers at about 432 million subscribers.

This wireless data adoption is an important indicator – a precursor - for the growth of wireless internet and broadband growth in India as 3G and 4G networks are deployed and broadband services over these networks becomes available and get absorbed to the yet un-served bandwidth/application-hungry community of subscribers. Besides the pre-dominant DSL access for Broadband Internet (85%), Cable Modem Technology (5%) and Ethernet LAN (5%) are other competing technologies in the internet access space.

Internet growth opportunities and market potential

India is served by approximately 190 ISP’s, and about 155 Broadband Service Providers*2 – although only 28 of these providers share 99% of the total broadband subscriber base – this skew exemplifies the lack of affordable broadband infrastructure across India on one hand, and also the lack of subscriber uptake (affordability, content) on the other. The total revenue reported by the Internet Service providers (for the quarter ending December 2011) was approximately US$ 600 million. Innovative VAS are an important dimension to Internet growth in India, which include ‘verticalized’ services in the health and education segments amongst others which are strongly funded through multiple Government programs.

It is apparent, and logical, that wireless technologies will continue to play an important role for Internet access in India; supported by the recent regulatory steps for the digitalization of the CATV network that mandates CATV operators to migrate to digital modems in the wireline access network.

The business opportunity in the India Internet space is accessible primarily via the following avenues:

1.       Working with SPs, CATV providers, mobility service providers (especially as 3G and 4G networks emerge, and CATV regulatory mandates become effective) and ISPs (they own significant spectrum and infrastructure on the ground and customers in both consumer and enterprise segments)

2.       Accessing the largely untapped rural broadband market (95% of broadband subscribers are in Urban areas). The Bharat Broadband Network floated by the Government of India will play a crucial role in delivering affordable bandwidth access to all types of service providers (local- regional- national telcos, ISP’s CATV providers, content service providers  etc) over a common fiber network in the core and aggregation network that will be agnostic to the deployment of a range of wireline and wireless technologies in the access network.

3.       Working with India-centric content and applications developers that can provide local language support.

*References

1.       ‘The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators, October-December 2011’. Published by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India., New Delhi (April 13, 2012)

2.       ‘Convergence & Broadband in the Digital Era’  by Rajkumar Upadhyay, Advisor, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (April 2012)

 

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Attending High School, Virtually, Online

By Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

A while back, I asked what the future of higher education might look like with the advent of distance learning. Even in just the last couple years, online education in higher-ed has grown enormously. A recent study by the Sloan Consortium reported that more than 6 million U.S. students (nearly a third of all students in college) took at least one online course in 2006, an increase of more than half a million students over the previous year.

It's not surprising that forward-looking institutions of higher learning have been quick to embrace the potential of online coursework. What I never anticipated (although certainly others did) was how quickly online education would take hold in primary and secondary (K through 12) schools as well.

Read More »

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Broadband: Exploring the Demographic Patterns

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Broadband wireless technology has no doubt had an impact on enterprise productivity -- the ability for companies to provide anytime, anywhere access to both data and colleagues means faster response time and the competitive advantage that brings.

But we sometimes focus more on the corporate impact than the impact it has on personal lives as well -- and not just the ability of teenagers to text or celebrities to tweet.

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Getting to the UN Broadband Commission's 2015 Goals

Earlier this week, I attended the UN’s Broadband Commission meeting in Ohrid, Macedonia, where we discussed initiatives to reach the Commission’s goals by 2015:

1) All countries have national broadband plans;

2) Broadband is affordable in developing countries so that entry-level broadband services cost less than 5% of average month income;

3) Broadband is adopted by 40% of households in developing countries; and that

4) Broadband penetration reaches 60% of the worldwide population and 50% in developing countries

To support this vision of an ever expanding Internet that people see as essential, Cisco sponsored the 83rd Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meeting last week in Paris. At the IETF, more than 1,400 of the leading Internet engineers and technologists from around the world gathered to further develop the standards which provide the foundation for Internet services such as domain names, email, the Web, and instant messaging.

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It’s Time to Have a Serious Conversation About Internet Privacy Laws

March 14, 2012 at 4:15 am PST

On Saturday, March 10, Jasmin Melvin published the story "Web Giants Face Battle Over 'Do Not Track', Other Consumer Privacy Legislation.” The U.S. government, and governments around the world, have their eyes set on Google, Apple, and Facebook and their current and future policies in regards to internet privacy laws. SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, was the legislature’s first major attempt at regulating the Internet, and web giants like Google and Wikipedia responded with a day of blackouts, generating “3.9 million tweets, 2,000 people a second trying to call their elected representatives, and more than 5,000 people a minute signing petitions opposing the legislation.” SOPA may have failed, but you can be sure it won't be the last attempt at regulation. This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), plans to issue new recommendations for Internet privacy and data management policy.

You might think, "What's the big deal, sure I want my privacy protected from Google, Facebook and the like, this is the United States of America." Well, it's not quite that simple. I agree, Google and Facebook can't afford to get this one wrong: they would risk losing massive numbers of users who opt out, or choose new options that don't track data or new features such as a "do not track" button. But decisions like this have massive consequences that go beyond personal privacy and data management. Read More »

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