Despite of the data big-bang, which was triggered after the entry of Jio in to the market-place, 2018, has been among the lowest growth years for broadband subscribers in India.
As per the TRAI data analysed, 2018, saw a growth of 44.7% in broadband subscribers over the previous year. This is the lowest in the past 5 years (2014 onwards), since a lot of industry and government focus started towards increasing the broadband penetration in the country.
The good news is that overall broadband subscribers have grown at a CAGR of 43.7% in the past 5 years taking the total number of subscribers to 525 million. This also marks the broadband wireless subscribers to cross 500 million landmark. On the other side, the fixed broadband continues to decline / stagnate. By end of 2018, fixed broadband subscribers should further decline to 17.6 million.
Interestingly, India witnessed the maximum addition in broadband subscribers in the year 2016, when Jio started its services commercially on September 5th. In 2016, 73% of subscribers growth was seen over the previous year. In 2017, the yearly growth was 54% which is estimated to settle at 45% in 2018.
“This decline is evident…,” said Faisal Kawoosa, Founder techARC, “… as it is getting difficult to add the new broadband subscribers at the entry segments of users. It would be a herculean task to get next 500 million on board taking the Indian broadband subscribers to cross 1 billion mark.”
Other than RIL’s JioPhone, there has been no focused attempt from any operator to enable ‘broadbandisation’ at the entry level of the market. The industry including the supply chain has to think of more such innovative solutions to enable more people at the entry segments joining the digital ride.
Unfortunately the off-track performance of flagship projects like BharatNet, have also been a reason for the slow growth of broadband in the country. These projects have time and again been failing their timelines, which is depriving a large unconnected population from the benefits of digital infrastructure.
With over 97% of the broadband users coming from wireless technologies like 4G, the entire ecosystem has to come up with innovative as well as sustainable and scalable measures for India to have over a billion broadband subscribers. The onus, however, would be primarily on the government which can make effective use of resources like USO Fund, etc., to reach the potential India has.