While April data is awaited, one analysis of Trai’s MySpeed app has shown that median download speeds in March were the lowest in the two years since the app started tracking speeds – and down 34% from February. For everyone working or studying from home during the lockdown, this helps explain why the internet has been annoyingly glitching on them. Low speed translates into poor internet experience, including the fracturing of audio/video calls. It affects productivity everywhere and in sectors like India’s $191 billion IT services industry the impact can be quite large.
While the demand supply mismatch has become more noticeable now, it predates the lockdown. One mobile broadband traffic index found a whopping 47% jump in overall data traffic in India in 2019 while its global rank on mobile broadband traffic remained well below 100 – trailing even neighbours like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal. Its ranking on fixed broadband fares somewhat better but then its fixed broadband penetration is very underwhelming.
Today’s special circumstances have thrown the spotlight on how telecom infrastructure is the core backend support for almost all other sectors. On it will depend progress on fronts as different as agriculture and medicine. Yet, as the number of players in telecom have thinned out it has fallen behind on cutting edge metrics like 5G. Measures like increasing spectrum availability could really help in the short term. In the long term more holistic policy focus is needed. Without suitable government vision and incentives, India is in danger of falling behind in a hyper speed world.
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