- WiFi and Home Broadband became popular in 2020.
- Online classes and video calls led to greater demand.
- Users opted for fast and stable internet connections.
Data is the new oil. There is no better time to revisit this phrase than the last week of 2020 a year where the success of everything eventually came down to speed and quality of your internet connection. The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed due to it left no other option but to turn towards WiFi and home broadband. The country reached a major milestone when broadband connections crossed 700 million mark in July. This included mobile internet as well as fixed-line broadband.
According to TRAI, India had 705.4 million broadband connections as of July 31. The top wired broadband providers remain to be BSNL, Airtel, ACT Fibernet and Jio, among others. The new Fiber plans announced by the last gave a further boost to the wired connections.
"This year with restrictions due to COVID-19 represents a black swan event which changed the internet consumption patterns at homes to a great extent. Since people got confined to homes completely during the lockdown they had to rely on the internet for work, entertainment, communication as well as schooling of children. This brought realisation that mobile data is not at all sufficient for these needs and one needs wireline broadband connectivity with high speed, stability and unlimited data. This also led to people who were cut out from their usual interests outside home to find interesting ways of keeping themselves entertained in their homes resulting in huge upswing in online video consumption through. Therefore, OTT platforms mostly besides gaming enthusiasts getting more time to keep playing," Vivek Raina, Co-founder and CEO, Excitel tells India Today.
There was an increased demand due to the popularity of OTT platforms and mobile gaming but what changed in 2020 was sudden shift to Work From Home and online classes, which required faster and more stable connections.
While mobile internet has penetrated to smaller cities and towns, the speed offered remains to be a massive challenge. The recent Speedtest Global Index by Ookla has ranked India's mobile internet speeds at 131 for mobile internet speeds, much behind its neighbouring nations like South Korea, Sri Lanka, and even Nepal and Pakistan.
India's average mobile download speed is 12.07 Mbps, much lower than the global average of 35.26 Mbps, according to the index for September 2020.
"It was evident that during lockdown broadband became one of the most critical services for every household, it was only the outlet for consumers to the world outside. Communicating with friends and relatives who you couldn't physically visit or holding virtual meets, virtual ceremonies, virtual exhibitions broadband became integral to the social milieu of our society," Raina says.
Things are a lot better for broadband connections. The same index puts the country at the 70th position in terms of fixed broadband speed, a surge of two spots from the last time. The need of internet in daily tasks should ensure that the trend continues and more people look at WiFi and home broadband as a necessity and not luxury.
"With this phase wireline broadband is now firmly attached in the minds of users as one of the basic utility services for a household. It is as integral to the utility services of an urban household as let us say electricity, water or gas connection. There was a time when it was a luxury mostly used for productivity enhancement or entertainment at home but now whether it is work or schooling for children or communication with your friends, it is all dependent on a proper wireline broadband connection so yes it has become a basic necessity of a household.," he adds.
Fiber is the future
The popularity of WiFi and home boardband gives the industry a lot of reasons to cheer for but the trends change faster than anything else. Key players like Jio, Airtel and others have already started to focus on Fiber connections. They claim to offer significantly faster internet speeds. The operators are also coming up with bundled offers to lure more customers.
"Fiber broadband i.e. fiber to the home is what we need to focus on. Currently less than 50 Lakh FTTH connections in the country, we have a long way to go as far as penetration of wireline in the country is concerned. So, our task for the coming year is cut off, we need to focus fully on penetration of FTTH connectivity across urban India," Raina says.
Currently, the service is only limited to major cities of the country and 2021 will key in taking it to all pockets of urban India, that too at affordable rates.