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Internet Potential in India

Internet as medium of communication and knowledge gained popularity in India after the boom in the ITES/BPO industry ten years back. Better knowledge on the uses of internet among the people and the transfer of information technology related work to India compelled the Government to open the doors for private players into this industry.

India’s performance in the ITES/BPO industry in the last few years has made education courses on information technology in high demand. The good pay packages and a high potential for growth has driven many to this field. A good number of English-speaking population and affordable IT education in the country made it possible for a huge portion of the country’s young crowd opt for a career in IT.

There is a high potential for growth for internet in India. The current market penetration is very low in the country. High speed internet accessible through DSL and cable has become immensely popular in the current market after the normal dial-up connection. Technologies like Fibre To The Home (FTTH) using fibre optic cables and Metro Ethernet Networks have been introduced in the metropolitan cities of India. Reliance Communication is one company which has launched fibre optic network in India that can provide better quality services by using light signals for the transfer of data.

Rise in the number of business undertakings in India demands better infrastructure in the transfer of data. Voice Over IP, video conferencing, and other technologies has reduced the distance between the countries. Access to high speed internet also made telecommuting possible. As the cost to companies is low on telecommuting, the demand for more high speed internet access is on the rise. The wide reach of the internet has also paved the way for new job opportunities that make it possible to work within the four walls of the home. E-commerce is another channel which has a high potential in India as it is one area where the penetration is very low.

IP-TV is another area which has a great potential for growth. Cable, telephone and satellite are the three sources of internet. With the decline in the revenue over voice business on account of the usage of Skype, Google Talk, etc the ISPs were forced to identify other services that can be combined to minimise the shrinkage in the revenue. As Internet Protocol considers voice, data and video as “data”, the ISPs were able to come up with new technologies like IPTV with added features like Video-on-demand through the telephone channels which could be transferred at lesser costs. Major ISPs in India have started pilot study on the feasibility of its launch in the Indian market.

As a first step to improve the internet usage, the Government has created a fund called Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) for subsidising the roll-out of telecom towers into the rural areas. Information Technology Bill passed in the year 2000 recognises electronic filing of documents, electronic signature, etc. Submission of the Income Tax returns online using digital signature is a major step taken by the

Government during the recent times. IT-enabled Braille education initiated by the Ministry of Information Technology plans to reach the visually impaired, hearing handicapped, autistic persons.

However, the absence of the proper infrastructure is a major obstacle to the growth of this industry. Laying and widening of the roads as a plan to improve the basic infrastructure in the country comes as a major barrier in the laying of the fibre optic cables which can provide high speed internet of 100mbps. Unlike copper cables which can be easily moved to another location, changing the location of a fibre optic cable is very expensive. Moreover a micro fracture in the cable can lead to a huge fall in the efficiency. To prevent this, many Government entities (eg railways, Power Grid, National Highways) have/are in the process of putting long distance optic fibre cabling along their alignment. Since this would cover all parts of the country, the long coverage aspect is likely to get taken care of. It is said that the provision for ducts have been made under the Bangalore-Mysore highway for laying the optic fibres for high speed connectivity.

Besides the Government, private undertakings like Sify Ltd, a leader in Consumer internet and Enterprise Services has a tie-up with Microsoft to provide access to licensed versions of MS Office software in Sify’s cyber café, I-way. Sify also plans to provide 100 hours of free internet access to the school going children, thus paving way for a technologically savvy new generation.

As there is a huge potential for internet growth in India, ISPs are coming up with better services and improved quality at reasonable rates making it accessible to many in India.

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