Soon, rural India homes will have internet access via cable TV network

Soon, rural India may have access to broadband services through cable networks. To boost rural internet connectivity, the ministry of information and broadcasting and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) proposed to provide broadband services through existing cable networks.

According to ministry officials, the move has the potential to provide internet connectivity to nearly 190 million households that have television sets. A Times of India report says that about 100 million homes already have cable TV subscription.

Trai chairman R S Sharma said that such a move can increase internet connectivity through fixed line networks from the existing 7 per cent, against the global average of 46 per cent.

During the mid-December meeting of the ministry and TRAI with service providers, Sharma cited the instance of South Korea, which has implemented a similar proposal.

For it to be implemented, the proposal will now be whetted on the financial implications of a likely AGR waiver. But with both the government and service providers on board, it is likely to see the light of day.

How will the transition take place

At the consumers’ end, the transition to broadband, along with cable TV services, will happen through a simple migration to a new set-top box.

At the service providers’ end, technology integration for both cable and broadband services will be facilitated by the ministry’s engineering arm- BECIL.

Internet users in rural India

Urban India with an estimated population of 455 million already has 295 million using the internet. Rural India, with an estimated population of 918 million as per 2011 census, has only 186 million internet users leaving out potential 732 million users in rural India, according to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB.

"Given that the total Urban Population is much lower than the total rural population, the urban-rural digital divide is actually more acute than what the penetration numbers portray.

Internet penetration in urban India was 64.84 per cent in December 2017 as compared to 60.6 per cent last December. In comparison, rural internet penetration has grown from 18 per cent last December to 20.26 per cent in December 2017.

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