India witnessed a sluggish quarterly growth of 1.02 percent in the total number of internet subscribers for the quarter ending June 2021, according to a report on performance indicators of Indian telecom services by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The data, submitted by internet service providers, suggested that subscribers have increased from 825.30 million to 833.71 million.
It augurs well for India that the number of narrowband subscribers declined from 47.21 million to 40.93 million in this quarter as a rate of 13.30 percent indicates that most people want high-speed internet (>512 KBPS). The remaining 792.78 million are broadband subscribers. Delhi had the highest number of broadband connections in an urban area with 41.09 million, followed by Maharashtra with 40.38 million, and Tamil Nadu with 39.78 million connections.
The report revealed that 97.09 percent of subscribers were accessing the internet from their mobile devices. “Wired internet subscribers are only 2.83% in total internet subscribers at the end of June, 2021,” the report said.
TRAI said that the number of wired Internet subscribers decreased from 25.99 million from the previous quarter to 23.58 million at the end of June 2021. On the other hand, wireless Internet subscribers increased by 1.35 percent to 810.13 million.
The report provides the emerging macro trends in the provision of the internet to all corners of India. It is important to note whether the internet is being provided to every citizen of India given its prominence in a post-pandemic world.
What is the share of major service providers?
Private internet service providers command a lion’s share of the total internet subscriber base at 97 percent in this quarter. Only a measly three percent opt for public internet service providers.
Reliance Jio, in its short stint of two years, has raced to the top with a share of 52.77 percent followed by Airtel. There are a total of 468 internet service providers in the country out of which the top 10 service providers corner a share of 99.30 percent of the total internet subscriber base.
Urban vs Rural
Unlike the telecommunication dip, the rural areas have embraced the internet, increasing subscription numbers to 336.87 million from 322.77 million at the end of March 2021 whereas urban areas saw total subscriptions dip to 496.84 million from 502.5 million. However, only 37.74 people per 100 people have access to the internet in rural parts of the country compared to 105.06 per 100 people.
Maharashtra (71.21 million), Andhra Pradesh including Telangana (64.38 million), U.P.(East) (63.50 million), Bihar (56.81 million), and Tamil Nadu (56.41 million) are the top five service areas in terms of internet subscription.
What is the share of data usage in the ARPU of companies?
Telecom companies are heavily dependent on data usage as nearly 94 rupees out of the total 104.66 ARPU per month (Average Revenue Per User) comes from internet usage. Calls only constitute Rs 14 in the ARPU overall.
The above table shows that companies offered one GB of data at Rs 9.80 in the quarter which ended on June 30, 2021.
India’s digital divide
MediaNama has earlier reported that rural telecom subscriptions decreased by 10 lakh between April to June this year. This is the first time since at least June 2020 that the rural subscriber base has seen a net decrease.
“Rural telephone subscribers decreased from 537.42 million at the end of Mar-21 to 536.47 million at the end of Jun-21 and Rural Tele-density also decreased from 60.27% to 60.10% during the same period,” TRAI said in the report.
Schools lack internet access
Only 22.3 percent had access to the internet in the academic year 2019-2020 out of more than 15 lakh schools in India, as revealed by the Ministry of Education report. Moreover, only 37.13 percent of schools had functional computer facilities.
India’s skewed internet access highlights its poor digital infrastructure. The country must focus on improving access in rural areas to ensure that the march towards 1.5 billion internet users is not asymmetrical in its demographics.
MoS Rajeev Chandrasekhar claims to top 1.5 billion users by 2023
The figure of 1.5 billion was provided by Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar at an Assocham conference. He said that the country will double its internet user base in the next two years with the BharatNet project connecting homes, particularly in rural India.
It remains to be seen what yields of the government’s tall claims and whether the project is able to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas.
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