Indian broadband connections top 800 million … sort of

'Broadband' is defined as 512kbps – for now – and just 24 million current connections are wired


India's Telecoms Regulatory Authority has revealed that the nation has over 800 million active broadband subscribers.

The Authority's Highlights of Telecom Subscription Data [PDF] for the month ending on July 31st 2021 revealed that the nation started the month with 792.78 million broadband subscribers and ended it with 808.6 million – two per cent growth within a month.

Wireless subscriptions jumped by 14.78 million, with wired subs up by a mere 490,000. Interestingly, fixed wireless services grew 83.53 per cent in the month, jumping from 650,000 subs to over 1.19 million.

Pause for a moment, dear reader, and imagine the challenges of adding even the 490,000 subscribers that took up wired subs in July 2021. Never mind nearly 15 million new wireless subs. It's like the entire populations of Denmark, Norway and New Zealand combined. In a month.

India also added another 6.88 million telephone subscriptions in the month, taking the total to 1,209,450,000. Wireless again dominates those stats, accounting for 1,186,840,000 of all subs. On July's busiest day, 989.34 million of those wireless subscribers were active.

July 2021 also saw India's tele-density reach 88.51 per cent – meaning the nation has 88.51 phone services for every 100 residents – although in rural areas the number drops to 60.33 per cent and growth is slower than in urban centres.

TRAI currently defines "broadband" as a connection offering 512kbps downloads, but in August 2021 recommended [PDF] new definitions of "basic" broadband as delivering between 2Mbps and 50Mbps, "fast" broadband at 50–300Mbps and "Super-fast" services beyond 300Mbps.

The regulator wants the definitions changed because plenty of basic online services – never mind videoconferences – are hard to run at 512kbps, and to ensure the Indian government's much-vaunted e-services can be comfortably consumed by citizens.

By way of comparison, giant Chinese carrier China Unicom also published some subscriber data yesterday, revealing it has 312,953,000 mobile subscribers and 91,484,000 fixed-line broadband subs – more than triple India's wired broadband population. Unicom has also sold 58 million 5G subs this year, 7.9 million of them in August 2021 alone. India is yet to commence commercial 5G services. ®

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