On September 5, 2016 a new 4G LTE network launched in India and something amazing happened. Speedtest.net is a web service that allows internet users to test the speed of their mobile and fixed broadband connections. They also track internet access speeds around the world and issue regular reports of their findings. One of the metrics they track is how many speedtests are run during a given time period. In September the number of speedtests run worldwide increased by roughly 25% over the monthly average for the first eight months of 2016. India had come online.
India is home to 18% of the world’s population (1.3 billion people) in a territory that covers approximately 2% of the world’s landmass. In comparison, the United States is roughly three times as large but only has a quarter of India’s population.
Although India is emerging as an important player in the information technology space, most of the population doesn’t have access to the internet. According to a Pew Research report issued in February of this year only 22% of the people in India report owning a smartphone or using the internet at least occasionally. This is far below the global median of 67%.
Mukesh Ambani decided to do something about bringing his fellow Indians into the Internet Age. Ambani is the richest man in India according to the Forbes list of world billionaires. He is also the Chairman and Managing Director of the conglomerate holding company Reliance Industries Limited. In 2010 Reliance Industries bought the only company that had broadband rights in all of India’s 22 zones, Infotel Broadband Services Limited, and rebranded it as Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited in 2013.
Reliance Jio announced it would build a 4G LTE network in India that was designed to provide high-speed internet access to approximately 90% of India’s population at a cost of $20 billion. Reliance Jio’s network was made available to staff and their families following a high-profile launch event in late December 2015. A soft launch began in May 2016 and the full commercial launch took place on September 5th.