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India: Internet, broadband fail to catch up with mobile growth

The debate over Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum auctions and internet telephony comes at a time when international organizations and analysts are painting a starkly contrasting picture of the Indian telecom and IT sectors.

Recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) data reveals that the success of India’s telecom revolution is restricted to mobile voice with very little to showcase in fixed line and internet access, or high-speed broadband. For a country that is the global IT and ITeS capital or the world’s back office, its own internet penetration remains one of the lowest in the world. Forecasts are equally uninspiring, projecting high-speed internet access to remain abysmal till 2012.

Internet broadband penetration will limp along to eventually reach a measly 3.9 connections for every 100 citizens by 2012. Even though internet users may be multiple times higher, actual broadband penetration will not exceed 18.1 million at the beginning of the next decade. In contrast, mobile telephony will add as many as 350 million subscribers during this five-year period to end at roughly 615 million by mid 2012.

These forecasts fall short of the government’s conservative target of 20 million high-speed internet subscribers by 2010-end. India’s broadband penetration is roughly 4.5 million subscribers. Even with a 300% growth rate over the next five years, the sector will fall short of the 50 million mark by 2012.

Read the full story in The Times of India here.

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