Rahul’s diary (High-income household) Friday, Dec 30, 2021, 11:30 pm: Woke up at 7 am, had a cup of unsweetened tea. Video chat with morn and dad. Went for a half-hour jog. Came back. Newsfeed, Ted talks, fit tuber, comedy videos (Phir hera pheri, Kapil Sharma show) breakfast. Online crash course on sales and marketing (2hrs). Worked from llama-5 pm (answered emails, multiple conference calls). 6-8 pm evening walk, music, try making a permanent shift to classical. I ordered paneer n garlic naan on Zomato. Netflix (Money heist). 12-6pm was all that was constructive. Will try to utilize my time better tomorrow. Ananya’s diary (Lower middle-income household)
Got up at 6 am as father would leave for work at 9 am. I wanted to have his mobile internet and use it as much as I can. Downloaded an online study video and saw some Tiktok and Youtube videos. Before I realised, it was 9 am already. Father took the phone away. Mother does not have any phone with her and is busy with her work. Waiting for my father’s return was so frustrating. So played with friends, studied the books given by school, desperately looking at the clock every time. Father returned at 7 pm. I ran and got the mobile, listened to the latest music but data was over after 3 songs! Can anyone feel my frustration?
This is a story that is representative of India’s digital divide. India is divided into three sections-India unlimited, India unconnected and in between those two, there is India of 1.5 GB internet. This ‘India of 1.5 GB: comprises of 400 million Indians like Ananya, who struggle with the daily limits imposed by 4G.
Their data consumption has grown 60 times in the past five years, but affordable 4G plans cannot cater to such usage. For example, one hourr of Hotstar/YouTube consumption or three hours of online classes or two hours of game play requires at least 2GB data, a requirement that cannot be met sufficiently by the 1.5GB data limit of affordable 4G plans. 4G internet has other limitations as well like unreliable speeds.
The solution is high-speed and unlimited home internet, but only 7.5 per cent of households in India have access. Home internet is largely available in urban mid to high income areas where Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Airtel/Jio have created a market presence. Beyond the urban mid- to high-income areas, local cable operators (LCO) are the players that have the infrastructure to connect homes with broadband internet. However, these LCOs are able to tap only 10-15 per cent of the potential.
Primarily because they lack the capability to create the market as the conventional broadband plans are unaffordable for the masses. Challenges in customer’s affordability also prevents larger ISPs to invest in infra in these areas to create a market, leading to a vicious cycle.
Wiom is trying to tackle this problem for digital India. Just like Uber, that allows cab drivers to get customers without owning the cabs, Wiom aggregates the LCOs on its platform, to bring affordable broadband solutions to lowincome households, without owning the bandwidth infra. The solution also enables households to sublet extra bandwidth to the Wiom platform, which Wiom in turn sells to people in the neighbourhoodfor as low as Rs 5.
This platform-play and shared internet economy approach has driven home internet demand exponentially across low-income neighbourhoods. By the way of an example, in Kusumpur Pahadi Area, New Delhi, a remarkable change was observed in the month of September 2021: