At Do Seed Test, we are always surprised at the increasing number of users from India we get every year for performing an internet speed test, broadband speed test or DSL speed test. Clearly, the number of internet users is on the rise in India. The question is by how much.
The FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2015 indicates that there has been a steep growth in internet usage in India. While the percentage of internet penetration is still pretty low by Western standards, 19%, in absolute values these are impressive numbers in a country of the size of India.
India is very close to overtaking the US as the second largest population of internet users. In fact, many say that India has already surpassed the US and is the second largest country in terms of internet usage, only next to China.
The boom in internet usage in India has been fueled by the increasing smartphone usage in the country. The number of smartphone users in India was 402 million in December, 2015 according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India. China has 650 million Internet users as per the World Bank.
The number of mobile data users in India has risen to 276 million. Indeed, 66% of the Indians who will access the internet for the first time will get it through smartphones, and not from a desktop computer. The fall in smartphone prices in the country has certainly helped.
An average smartphone in India costs no more than $150, which is really low by Western standards. Companies across India are today competing to offer devices for even lower than that, just $100. You can expect to get an internet package in India for as little as $0.17 for 30 megabytes of data. For over 94 percent of Indians, the smartphone is their most important way of accessing the internet.
For sure, the internet penetration in India is low at 19% of the population (some sources such as the World Bank put it higher at 30%). It is 50% in China and 87% in the U.S. Even so, it is clear that for a country with a population as large as India, these are no mean achievements.
The big issue in India, which is being tackled by the government, is to provide internet to the rural areas of the country. Only 10% of the rural population has access to the internet. Indeed, according to a survey, 75% of the rural population in India has no idea what the internet means.
There was an initiative from Facebook recently, called Internet.org or Free Basics that targeted at providing internet access to the poorest of poor in India, for basically free. But that initiative failed for some political and other reasons and we have discussed why here on this blog.
For many years, internet access in India was hamstrung by the fact that only a small section of India’s population owns computers. That is changing fast as more Indians buy computer because of the falling hardware costs in the personal computer industry. Also, for many, smartphones work just as fine as any computer and are much cheaper too.
The incredible rise of the internet in India can be seen in the massive growth in the number of e-commerce companies in India over the last 5 years. Indian e-commerce companies sell everything from groceries to book, furniture to used cars. They compete for the attention of over 100 million Indians, mostly in cities.
Internet messaging apps such as Whatsapp are very popular in India. Indian smartphone maker Micromax attributes the huge increase in the sale of their device to the popularity of Whatsapp and other apps. Indeed, Micromax founder Vikas Jain said at the recent WSJDLive Technology Conference that “WhatsApp and Facebook are the two biggest drivers of Internet use in India now.”
The government of India has certainly helped with initiatives such as Digital India, which aims to take internet to the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in the country. Indeed, through the Digital India program, the government aims to bring broadband connectivity to 250,000 villages in across India.
Certainly, India is on the right track as far as improving its digital infrastructure is concerned. At Do SpeedTest, we are proud to be a part of the change by offering you the best internet speed test, broadband speed test, DSL speed test and bandwidth test on the Web.