Internet in India: Is it cheap or expensive? History, Current Scenario & More

. 6 min read
Internet in India: Is it cheap or expensive? History, Current Scenario & More

The Condition of the Internet in India

India is authorising by and of itself as a prominent presence in the digital economy. According to data assembled by the World Bank, the number of internet users in India has increased considerably in recent years. Both the size and growth of its digital economy is now much larger than the other countries and provides hardware and services to keep the Indian customers and businesses online.

History of the Internet in India

In 1986, with the launch of the Educational Research Network (ERNET), the history of the Internet in India began. The network was made accessible only to the educational and research community.

India’s first publicly available internet service was launched on August 15, 1995, by the state-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited. The Gateway Internet Access Service then furnished a speed of 9.6 kb/s.

  • However, over the next ten years, the experience of the internet in the country has been less alluring with the narrow-band connection.
  • In 2004, the Government enacted its Broadband Scheme, which tagged broadband as an always-connected internet connection. The highest downloading speed was 255 kb/s.
  • Since 2005, the growth of the broadband sector in the country has been expedited. In 2010, the Government sold-off the 3G spectrum, followed by a big-shot auction of 4G spectrum, which set the scene for cut-throat competition in the wireless broadband market.

Growth of Internet Usage in India

According to the recently released Cisco Annual Internet Report, the number of internet users in India is set to exceed 900 million due to the increased insertion of low-cost smartphones and cheap internet plans.

  • The report further predicts that India’s population will reach 1.45 billion by 2023, with about 2.2 billion internet-linked devices by 2023. Cisco estimates that there are 1.5 billion internet-connected devices so far. The numbers indicate that internet penetration is increasing by 7x.
  • In India, rural people now use the internet more than urban people. The low-cost data revolution and the Government’s digital push have further diversified and incorporated the domestic internet.

Although internet users in rural areas are higher than in urban areas, there are plenty of headrooms for rural development. About 65% of rural people do not have access to the internet. This will further kick into the growth of the overall internet population in the next few years.

  • Although the invasion of the internet in India is anticipated to increase significantly soon, there is still a fluke in the country in terms of the adoption of 5G. Telecom giants-Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone India are delaying 5G trials in India, as they try to extend their submission.

The Telecom Industry Needs Improvement  Smartphone enjoyers in India have been relishing cheap data rates for ages. This is because of the inauguration of Jio. But sooner or later, this vacation has to be over.

  • Most of India’s telecom operators are fighting and owe millions. Amidst the three prime players, Reliance Jio has a clear lead with a 35% wireless market share, followed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea with 28% and 26%, respectively.

In March, Vodafone Idea reported a diminution of 6.5 million subscribers. Airtel lost 1.1 million users. Jio has already added 4.8 million subscribers in the same month.

  • This left most telecom operators with no option but to charge more from their customers. Jio’s entry has moved the occupant player. It hits the market with free data and unlimited voice calls. Each player was forced to lower the rate to stay swayed in the competition.
  • The recent Supreme Court verdict on AGR levies has come as another provocation for the telecom operators. The SC has catechised Telcos to pay 10% of their AGR dues by March 31, 2021, and the remaining instalment by April 1, 2021, by February 7 every year. Phone bills have increased by 10% to cover this.

Challenges Faced by the Indian Telecom Sector

  • Lack of telecommunication infrastructure in semi-rural and rural areas.
  • State governments charge a hefty amount to allow fibre to be kept.
  • Lack of skilled workforce.
  • The license fee is high.
  • Little penetration of fixed lines in its network
  • High clash and tax war.
  • Low Broadband perforation.
  • The financial health of the telecom sector

Connectivity Problems

At a time when the Telecom ministry is working hard to build the “Digital India”, and the country is speaking about moving towards 5G internet connectivity, the people of the country are still grappling to achieve a better data speed on their subsisting 4G connections.

  • India ranks 131st in terms of average data speed, according to a recent report published by the global data speed monitoring platform Ookla. The average 4G internet speed in India is lower than in countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
  • With over 650 million active internet users across the country multiplying it in the last few years, 4G internet connections have probably penetrated deep into India, but video and download speed buffering is still very poor in almost all regions.
  • India helps more than 450 million internet users, which can put a severe strain on network density by limiting the effectiveness of telecom operators. But Telcos’ failure to improve the situation after so many years can not be a reason to keep it a secret.

How Covid Hampered the Speed?

According to a report by Ookla, India’s average download speed has declined in March 2020. Ookla reports that in March this year, India relinquished in the world ranking at both mobile and fixed broadband speeds.

  • With more people starting to work from home due to the going on Covid-19 lockdown, bandwidth utility has climbed considerably. People are running out of data as a result of slow internet speeds. Some people exceed their FUP limit, and others are facing issues with numerous connected devices.
  • Fixed broadband average download speeds have dropped from 39.65 Pbps in February to 35.98 Pbps in March. This speed has been decaying since the entering of 2020, from 41.48 Mbps in January to 35.98 Mbps in March, a drop of 5.5 Mbps.
  • The report is a clear indication that because of the lockdown, many people are sitting in their own homes. So networks are hackneyed.

Where We Stand Now?

With over 550 million internet enjoyers, India is the world’s second-largest online market, behind China alone. By 2021, India will have more than 650 million internet users.

  • Despite having a large base of internet users, only 18% of the Indian populace had access to the internet in 2015. Now the number has increased. Simultaneously, about 70% of internet users in the country were considered to be male, only 30% of female users.
  • One of the features that India shares with other global internet users is its fondness for social media. It was estimated that by 2021, the number of social networking sites in India would be around 400.5 million; this number stood at about 168 million, while a significant increase from 2016.

Amidst all of the social media at hand, Facebook is the most popular social networking site. In fact, with about 165 million Facebook users in the country, India has the largest Facebook user in the world.

  • Online shopping is also in-demand among Indian internet users. Retail e-commerce sales in India were predicted to enlarge from 7 billion in 2017 to about 28 billion by 2024. About 50% of Indian purchasers report that they regularly use their mobile phones to purchase products or services.

The arrival of the internet has been welcomed by Indians and has proven to be a revolution in the country’s digital in addition to the social economy.


India is on its way to becoming a digitally developed country driven by the increasing availability of smartphones and high-speed connectivity. Worldwide and local digital merchants have perceived this fortune in India and are shaping services according to its customers. The rate of growth is helping to narrow the digital gap between India’s poorer states with rich states.

Also read:

Internet Penetration In India Over The Years
What is IoT? All about the Internet of Things
How online stores have penetrated the Tier-2 & Tier-3 cities?
Digitalisation - The next step in the evolution of Digital India


Q. What does 1GB of mobile data cost in India?

Ans: India ranks at a maximum of $0.09 per GB, a 65% drop in price compared to the country’s average spending in 2019.

Q. What is the future of digital India?

  • Well-defined infrastructure.
  • High-speed internet in every rural area
  • Cybersecurity.
  • Growth in digital education.
  • Prosperity in the digital economy.

Q. What is the Digital Economy in India?

Ans: A digital economy implies an economy that is built on digital computing technology and conducts business through markets based on the internet.

Q. Is India good in modern technology?

Ans: India is one of the top countries in the world concerning the scientific exploration, one of the top 5 countries in the field of spatial analysis.