Evolution of Internet In India: From A Luxury To A Necessity

Evolution of Internet In India: From A Luxury To A Necessity

Evolution of Internet In India: From A Luxury To A Necessity

evolution of internet

The internet is one element that has lately emerged as a crucial element for a comfortable and efficient lifestyle. The ‘internet’ has now become the essential center for everybody, whether for communications or research, interacting with people or for formal occasions.


Arguably, technology has always been one of the most important factors influencing human life. Each new technology ushers in a tsunami of change that sweeps across the individual, professional, cultural, and economic elements of organizations and customers throughout the world.

Throughout the last 25 years, India has seen the influence of technology on its economic, financial, and social sectors. One such entity that has recently taken the Indian crowd by a storm is wireless communication.

Wireless communication has not only evolved dramatically over the years, but it has advanced at a considerably quicker rate than it has been adopted. For today’s age, 4G as well as high-speed Wi-Fi connections are requirements, and in the future, technologies like IoT (Internet of Things) and 5G would play a critical role in shaping the generation’s lifestyles.

But, before we get into the future, let’s take a step back and learn more about the evolution of the internet.

The Indian Government has launched multiple projects to enhance the growth of the internet in India, which includes BharatNet, Digital India, Made in India, and Startup India.

History of Internet

While the worldwide internet dates back to the 1960s, Indians did not get online until 1986, with the introduction of the Educational Research Network (ERNET), a joint project of the Department of Electronics (DOE) and also the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Initially, the Internet was only intended for use by educational and scientific organizations.

Even though Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL)—now widely recognized as Tata Communications Ltd.— first opened cyberspace to the citizens in India on 15 August 1995, we used to connect to the internet via a modem (brief for modulator-demodulator), a machine that allowed a computer to send signals over standard phone lines by transferring analog signals into a digital one.

The modem was a difficult creature to tame. It would make a huffing sound and would be difficult to connect to the phone line. One had to dial again and again to join with the Internet service provider’s (ISP) larger computer network. Furthermore, even if it eventually connected, there was no assurance that you would be able to access the internet without disruptions.

The VSNL president BK Syngal; Amitabh Kumar, technical director at VSNL; tech enthusiasts such as Kanakasabapathy Pandyan, Miheer Mafatlal, Vijay Mukhi as well as the legendary Bollywood star Shammi Kapoor was also involved in making an internet connection a possibility in India.

India was indeed lucky in that by the time the Internet was made available to the general public, the World Wide Web had developed so we had access to online browsers like Mosaic and Netscape Navigator, although both are now part of ‘The Internet Legacy’.

The VSNL Gateway Internet Access Service (GIAS) was initially available in Bombay (currently Mumbai), Delhi, Calcutta (today Kolkata), as well as Madras (currently Chennai). By the end of 1995, the service had been expanded to cover Bangalore (currently Bengaluru) and Pune.

Nevertheless, the formal opening of the Internet for the Indian consumer was a colossal blunder since VSNL underestimated the underlying demand, which was compounded by hardware and network concerns.

VSNL, on the other hand, was able to introduce 10,000 Internet subscribers in about six months after the failed debut. A year after, the software services lobbying group Nasscom set up a stand for VSNL in Mumbai’s Nehru Centre to show what the Internet can achieve.

Connection to the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) was launched in 1997, and the number of Internet subscribers reached over 90,000 during March 1998.

Looking especially at India, the previous 25 years have witnessed an exceptional level of technological innovation. Internet connection used to need a dial-up connection via your phone’s line at excruciatingly slow rates in order to view emails. Nowadays, millions of citizens in India use touchscreen phones to access the Internet at great frequencies from any place.

Reliance Jio deserves credit for this extent of mobile internet coverage since they have proven to be the most innovative disruptors since their arrival into this industry.

The Evolution of Internet Speed

In 1995, the very first commercially available internet provider in India provided dial-up speeds up to 9.6 kbit/s. The network speed was upgraded to 14.4 kbit/s with the introduction of improved modems, supported by 28.8 and 33.4 kbit/s connections by 1998. Dial-up was eventually updated to give analog line speeds of up to 56 kbit/s.

The government issued its broadband strategy in 2004, defining broadband as “an always-on Internet access with a download rate of 256 kbit/s or higher.”

In July 2013, the term was updated to include broadband as a “data connection that provides interactive services, particularly internet access, and is capable of a minimal download speed of 256 kbps to a specific person.” In August 2014, the minimum download speed was upgraded from 256 kbit/s to 512 kbit/s.

On October 31, 2016, TRAI issued a regulation to every fixed broadband ISPs requiring them to guarantee that the minimal download speed of a network does not fall below 512 kbit/s even after a customer has exhausted their allotted data limitations.

TRAI also directed that all ISPs tell their users through SMS or email when they have reached 50%, 90%, or 100% of their given data limit. TSPs must also offer a portal or website where users may monitor their use patterns at any time.

With an average download speed of 8.66 Mbit/s, India placed 74th out of 207 nations in the 2019 World Broadband Speed League. The common internet speed in India is 6.5 Mbit/s, with a maximum bandwidth of 41.4 Mbit/s, as per the Akamai Q1 2017 State of the Internet Report.

India was rated 89th out of 149 nations around the world in terms of average internet speed and 97th in terms of average maximal connection speed.

42% of internet users in India have an overall internet speed of more than 4 Mbit/s, 19 percent have speeds of more than 10 Mbit/s, while 10% have speeds of more than 15 Mbit/s. In India, the average internet speed on cellular networks was 4.9 Mbit/s.

As per the March 2021 Speedtest Global Index, released by Speedtest.net, India was placed 66th out of 177 nations in terms of regular broadband internet speed and 86th out of 140 nations in terms of regular mobile broadband speed. In India, the overall broadband internet download speed is 56.10 Mbit/s, while the standard broadband internet upload speed is 53.68 Mbit/s.

An Introduction To Prominent Internet Service Providers

Since around December 31, 2019, India had 358 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) providing broadband plus narrowband solutions. The top 10 ISPs have 99.50 percent of the overall user base.

As of December 31, 2019, Jio (51.60%), Airtel (23.24%), Vodafone Idea (19.77%), BSNL (4.21%), and Atria Convergence Technologies (0.21%) were the top five ISPs in India by customers.

The top five wired internet service providers in India were BSNL (51.75%), Airtel (10.80%), Atria Convergence Technologies (6.78%), Hathway (4.01%), as well as Jio (3.83%). The other 22.82% of users are served by other wired ISPs. Jio (53.14%), Airtel (23.64%), Vodafone Idea (20.40%), and BSNL (2.68%) are the top four cellular broadband providers.

Also, the total international internet speed controlled by Indian ISPs has reached 2,933 Gbit/s since 30 June 2017. The highest speed of data transfer from a single nation to the rest of the globe is referred to as international bandwidth.

The Slow Growth of the Internet In India

One of the key difficulties confronting India’s internet sector is the lower average capacity of broadband service in comparison to other countries. As per 2007 statistics, the standard download speed in India was around 40 KB per second (256 kbit/s), the TRAI-mandated minimum speed, while the world average was 5.6 Mbit/s within the same year.

To address this infrastructural challenge, the government named 2007 the “Year of Broadband.” To compete with the global benchmarks for measuring connection speed, the Indian government had suggested a 690 billion broadband infrastructure to link all towns, villages, and cities with a populace of much more than 500 people in 2 stages, with completion dates of 2012 and 2013.

Google and Tata have collaborated to develop the Internet Saathi initiative, which aims to boost digital literacy amongst women in rural areas. The network was expected to offer speeds of up to 10 Mbit/s in 63 metropolitan regions and 4 Mbit/s in another 352 communities.

Furthermore, India’s Internet penetration rate is moderate, accounting for 42% of the population, compared to the growth in OECD countries, where the standard is above 50%. Another problem is the cultural divide, which favors metropolitan regions; as per 2010 figures, more than 75% of the nation’s broadband services are in the top 30 cities.

Under Indian government’s Universal Service Obligation program, authorities have attempted to encourage the expansion of broadband in rural regions by encouraging more investment in rural infrastructures and introducing subsidized pricing for rural users.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), about 60% of Indian internet users watched vernacular material in 2019, with just around a quarter of internet users over the age of 35.

The Future of the Internet In India

The following five years for India’s Internet adventure appear to be highly positive. On the one hand, emerging technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are expected to not only provide everyone with high-speed access to the internet.

It would also make the internet more customized and personalised, with new technologies such as holographic presence, super high definition video, and virtual reality being available to everyone.

The pandemic had a crucial role in magnifying and hastening many of these developments in 2020. Going forward, as India’s connection grows, anticipate global technology behemoths to scramble to join the country, as well as an influx of content producers and corporate technology entrepreneurs to emerge from India’s tiniest cities and leave their impact on the world via the internet.

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