The Journal

Universal Broadband Access is the Next Tech Revolution in India

India has become a center for modern technology in many ways over the last two decades. After attracting attention as the go-to location for outsourced IT services, the nation has recently become a hotbed of research and development for some of the world's best-known companies. All of the developments are also supported by a large and dedicated workforce of skilled employees that are constantly learning to stay ahead in the global technology marketplace.

The backbone that makes all of the growth possible, of course, is the internet. Oddly though, India trails behind its global peers in many key metrics of internet connectivity, from broadband availability to average connectivity speed. The good news is that there are efforts underway all over the country that seek to expand access and increase connectivity speeds. Here's a look at some of those efforts.

Municipal Broadband Investments

One of the primary ways that the central and state governments in India are planning to address the deficiencies in internet access is through deploying government-owned and operated network infrastructure. This is a model that's been used to great effect in places all over the globe. It's even proven to be effective in places that offer geographic challenges from uneven terrain to far-flung population centers. A prime example of this is the National Broadband Network in Australia, which extended access to its population on the government network through a tiered system of NBN plans.

There are already two notable attempts at municipal broadband systems in India. One is called the Andhra Pradesh Fiber Grid, which was dedicated on December 27th, 2017. When completed, it will provide broadband internet, television, and telephone service to the homes of the state's 50 million inhabitants. There's a similar effort underway in the neighboring state of Telangana which will extend broadband access to their population of 23 million people.

Advanced Networking Technology

In keeping with India's rise as a global leader in technology research and development, there's some state-of-the-art technology under development to bring internet access to more of the estimated 900 million citizens that aren't online. In a partnership with the previously mentioned Andhra Pradesh Fiber Grid, Google, Inc.'s experimental technology arm, called "X", is working out a way to use lasers as a data transmission medium.

The technology, called free space optical communications (FSOC), uses pulsed beams of laser light to transmit data over vast distances without traditional cabling. If successful, the technology could be used to overcome many of the geographical constraints that slow infrastructure development in rural areas, like rivers, mountains, and local right-of-way issues. It would also lower the costs involved in a large-scale broadband network deployment, which is the biggest hindrance to such plans in countries as geographically diverse as India.

The Backbone of the Future

As these projects and others begin to reach fruition, it is hoped that the overall broadband penetration rate in India, which currently sits at about 31% will start to rise in short order. For a country that boasts the second-largest national population on Earth, the results of these efforts could change the lives of over a billion people. It's also the next step in the economic advancement of the country, which needs a 21st-century infrastructure to fully join the ranks of advanced industrialized nations.

One thing is certain though. If the same effort and dedication are brought to bear on the broadband internet problem that was evident in the effort to attract high-technology firms to India in the first place, we will soon see yet another technological revolution in a nation where tech has become a global calling card.