As of 2020, around 50% of the Indian population had access to the internet. That's a huge increase from just 4% in 2007. Even in the last few years, the level of internet penetration has been growing rapidly. In 2014, 18% of Indians had access to cyberspace. By 2016, this had increased to 34.8%, and by 2019, it had jumped to 48.48%.
Initiatives like Delhi's free municipal WiFi network have been instrumental in achieving this.
Unfortunately, though, the internet is like many other things in life: it's inequitable. Some areas have access to more reliable and faster internet connections. This is down to a few different factors, including:
Physical: Remote regions are harder to get connected to the internet than big cities as they're further from the main infrastructure
Commercial: Big cities are more profitable for telecoms companies, therefore, they have a bigger incentive to invest in internet connections there than in less densely populated areas
It's not just the presence of a connection and its speed that are important either. The stability of the connection is important to perform tasks like video conferencing and gaming.
The analytical company OpenSignal recently ranked India's 48 best cities for gaming, using its own unique "Gaming Experience" metric. The metric shows how good the mobile gaming experience is in that city, based on the speed, jitter, and latency of the connections in that area. Ahmedabad came in first, with a score of 71.7, followed by Navi Mumbai with 70.1. Mumbai was in 6th place with 67.8, while Lucknow was near the bottom of the list with a score of 53.3.
A lower "Gaming Experience" will result in laggy gameplay that, if serious enough, can make video games unplayable. Of course, this will discourage people from taking up video games as a hobby, but it can have more serious consequences. A lack of video gamers will make it harder for local publishers to make a profit from their content, stifling innovation and holding back the digital economy.
Good quality internet connections for gaming are also important in India if it wants to catch up to the rest of the world in esports. The industry has grown rapidly over the last five years, with games like Dota 2 and League of Legends setting records for the biggest esports rewards in history. At present, India lags behind South Korea, China, North America and Europe in terms of the number of players and the number of wins in international competitions.
A bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games for Tirth Mehta was a sign that the country is on the verge of making waves on the world stage.
Internet speeds are still what grab headlines though. As of 2019, India had an average internet speed of 34.07 Mbps, though the following cities manage to beat that.
According to Ookla, the company behind the popular Speedtest website, Chennai is the city with the fastest fixed internet connections in India. It recorded speeds of 51.07 Mbps through the company's tests.
The capital of Tamil Nadu didn't have the fastest mobile speeds, but it wasn't far behind with residents able to download at 10.52 Mbps.
Bengaluru has the second-fastest fixed internet connections with speeds of 42.5 Mbps. However, the city was let down by a mobile download rate of just 9.47 Mbps, making it the third slowest in Ookla's list.
Hyderabad is next on the list, with its residents able to download at speeds of 41.68 Mbps, similar to those found in Bengaluru. It also had some of the best mobile speeds, ranking fourth in that list with 11.48 Mbps.
Lucknow and Kolkata
These two cities had almost identical download speeds on fixed lines, with Lucknow managing speeds of 34.6 Mbps and Kolkata achieving 34.24 Mbps. However, there was a much bigger disparity between their mobile speeds.
Kolkata has the fifth-highest LTE connections in India at 11.46 Mbps, just a few hundred Kbps slower than Mumbai. However, Lucknow sat at the bottom of the list of large cities with download speeds of just 8.94 Mbps. Recently, Lucknow has received fibre internet connectivity as well. We can hope that the internet speeds here will improve in the next couple of months.