We are living in the digital era, where the world is likely to get fully connected in the coming times. More than 3.8 billion people – 51 percent of the world’s population – are now connected, thanks to technology. India is not much behind, with more than 500 million people, almost 40 percent of her population, having access to the internet. We have come a long way with technology adoption, and yet this is just the beginning.
Amidst COVID-19 outbreak, India is witnessing exponential growth in broadband subscribers. The Indian telecom regulator is expecting the average monthly wireless data consumption per user to go up by around 15 percent in the next six months, from around 10.37 GB currently.
Drivers for broadband demand
India is moving much faster toward digitization as the internet has now become a necessity. I am seeing at least five macro shifts in the current environment of network usage and traffic, which will continue even post the current situation.
- Increase in traffic. The internet traffic has increased between 30 and 100 percent. Most of this traffic is coming from enterprise use cases like video conferencing, collaboration tools, and increased usage of web-based applications on the cloud.
- Traffic shifting toward enterprises and cloud. Enterprise data consumption has increased significantly. With more employees operating outside the office, more workloads will have to be migrated to cloud for ensuring that work can be completed.
- Symmetric traffic. As contradictory to the earlier asymmetric use of the internet, data consumption is becoming symmetric – most of the traffic is upstream as well as downstream.
- Low latency requirement. Many enterprise applications are moving to cloud; they also demand a very low latency from the networks. The networks are responding to this requirement by having edge datacenters, and moving closer to the customer.
- Usage patterns shifted. The data-consumption pattern has shifted from enterprise networks to home networks, resulting in network congestion. To tackle it temporarily, telcos have started to roll out cell on wheels.
The current network infrastructure is not equipped to deal with the spike in web traffic. This is mainly due to low fiberization and limited wired broadband penetration within the country.
Key aspects to achieve India’s broadband dream
A new internet that reaches everywhere is needed for bringing the whole world online. Till now a follower, India can be the definitive leader for this next phase of the internet. I am sharing some key aspects that are essential for India’s broadband dreams.
- Deep fiberization. As data consumption increases speedily and home Wi-Fi networks operate at enterprise levels, deep fiberization becomes essential for ubiquitous connectivity. China, with a population closest to India, annually deploys 12x optic fiber as India. Also, 5G will require our country’s fiber backhaul for tower connectivity to go from the present 20 percent to 80 percent level in the next 1–2 years. Fiberization will bring endless possibilities for the consumer by offering higher speeds and transmitting large volumes of data over reliable connections. Most leading telecom operators are accelerating investments in fiberization. The government is also leading the way through BharatNet for creating a smart digital ecosystem.
- Embrace new-age virtualized technology. The Indian data networks industry – telcos, cloud companies, enterprises, and the government – should make the leap to the new agile virtualized infrastructure. As we plan to make the move from 4G to 5G, this is an incredible window of opportunity to lead the world by setting a standard – a standard that is at the same time advanced and affordable. Given the large network investments that still have to be made, Indian network providers can leapfrog in adopting next-gen technologies to deliver ultra-low latency and unlimited data capacity.
While the demand for data usage continues to grow, India’s broadband dreams will become a reality through necessary investments in fiberization and embracing new-age technology. Strong collaborations between the government and the private players will be a critical element for digital growth in India.