Broadband is far cry in India

Written by Corporate Bureau | New Delhi, Sep 1 | Updated: Sep 2 2008, 06:50am hrs
India may have emerged as the fastest growing telecom market in the world, however, in terms of Internet access and broadband numbers, the country has some major catching up to do. With almost close-to-zero broadband penetration, India is far behind most economies of the Asia-Pacific region. On the other hand, the region is the worlds largest broadband market with a 39% share globally.

While some Asia-Pacific economies are world leaders in information and communication technologies (ICT) where broadband access is ultra-high speedy, affordable and close to ubiquitous, in most of the regions poorer countries, Internet access is limited and low-speed according to ITUs Asia-Pacific Telecommunication and ICT Indicators report.

India and China make up for a quarter of the worlds total mobile subscribers with over 600 and 280 million mobile cellular subscribers, respectively. However, India still has to debut in mobile broadband. Same is the case with China, which recently overtook the US with 253 million Internet users (according to China Internet Network Information Center).

The Asia Pacific region as a whole is home to almost half the worlds fixed telephone subscribers. It has 42% of the worlds Internet users, and with 1.4 billion mobile cellular subscribers, it also has the largest mobile phone market. In terms of ICTs, the report pegs Asia-Pacific as a region of superlatives with the region being the leader in broadband numbers too. However, there is a wide chasm between the economies of the region when it comes to Internet access especially in terms of speed.

In some of the rich economies of the region, one in four persons is a broadband subscriber while in most of the regions low and lower-middle income economies, high-speed Internet access is limited to urban areas at best, typically expensive, and often not available at all. India numbers too paint a sorry picture. The country has close to 50 million Internet users while its number of broadband users is abysmally low at 4.5 million.

Compare that with countries like Hong Kong (China) and Japan, and operators there have launched one-Gigabits per second (Gbps) broadband and triple-play services aimed at the residential market which include Internet telephony and television. These high-income economies are also leaders in terms of third generation (3G) mobile cellular deployment.

But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the recent change in government policies on 3G and Internet telephony things have started looking up for the country. While 3G is expected to roll-out by next year, the decks have also been cleared for Internet telephony.