New Delhi, December 19, 2012: When India’s Minister in charge of Communications and Information Technology tabled a written reply in the upper house of Parliament last week, he was only confirming bad news, that was widely suspected: the nation’s ambitious road map of empowerment through broadband and Internet growth, had gone awry and was way off the targets set five years ago.
He reported that Internet Service Providers had reported subscriber numbers for the last three years as:16.18 million (2009-10), 19.67 million (2010-11) and 22.86 million (2011-12). These numbers were way below expectation, when compared to the targets that government had set -- of 6 million, 18 million and 40 million Internet users for the years 2005, 2007 and 2010 respectively, under the Broadband Policy announced in 2004.
The policy had set the target for broadband users at 3 million, 9 million and 20 million for 2005, 2007 and 2010. The actual numbers were less than half the targets -- at 0.90 million (2005), 3.13 million (2007) and 10.99 million (2010). And this in spite of defining broadband as 256 KBPS – one-fourth of the globally accepted definition of 1 MBPS.
The dismal news on the internet front, came in a week when the mobile phone industry too, had bad news to share: The Cellular Operators Association of India which represents GSM service providers reported the biggest decline in mobile subscriptions ever for any given month, when November saw them lose over 9 million subscribers. Some of this loss could be attributed to cancellation of dead numbers – but the monthly ‘negative growth’ in mobile phone additions across the industry – GSM and CDMA – was a phenomenon that began in mid 2012 – and according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority, continues till today.