Web com­pa­nies learn to make do with In­dia’s makeshift net­works

March 21 — March 27, 2016 ▶ ▶ With Face­book Free Ba­sics blocked in In­dia, Google and Mi­crosoft are step­ping in ▶ ▶ “The im­por­tant thing is to build prod­ucts that can work on patchy net­works”

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - News -

Google may be the world’s big­gest In­ter­net com­pany, but Ra­jan Anandan, the head of its In­dia op­er­a­tion, says he’s be­come just as fo­cused on what users are do­ing off­line. His team has led Google’s push into apps that can down­load data for later use with­out an ac­tive mo­bile con­nec­tion. One helps peo­ple nav­i­gate New Delhi pub­lic tran­sit; an­other lets users store Youtube videos for re­play; a third of­fers an off­line ver­sion of Google Maps. Th­ese ef­forts all have the same goal: mak­ing Google prod­ucts easy to use even with poor In­ter­net con­nec­tions.

About 375 mil­lion to 400 mil­lion peo­ple in In­dia are on­line, the world’s se­cond-largest In­ter­net pop­u­la­tion af­ter China. Many de­pend on mo­bile con­nec­tions that can only be gen­er­ously called spotty. In­di­ans who use smart­phones to go on­line have ac­cess to a wire­less net­work only about 56 per­cent of the time, es­ti­mates Eric­s­son, the Swedish mo­bile tech com­pany. The av­er­age con­nec­tion speed is 2.5 megabits per se­cond, ac­cord­ing to Aka­mai Tech­nolo­gies, a com­pany that makes tech­nol­ogy to speed de­liv­ery of Web con­tent. (The av­er­age speed in the U.S., which isn’t ex­actly best in class, is 12.7 Mbps, and in South Korea it’s 20.5 Mbps.) “Some­times you get 2G, some­times you get 3G, and some­times you get no G,” Anandan says. “The im­por­tant thing is to build prod­ucts that can work on patchy net­works.”

In Fe­bru­ary, the Tele­com Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity of In­dia re­leased reg­u­la­tions ef­fec­tively ban­ning Face­book’s Free Ba­sics, a prod­uct avail­able in about three dozen coun­tries that of­fers free ac­cess to a stripped-down ver­sion of Face­book and a hand­ful of sites that pro­vide news, weather, nearby health- care op­tions, and other info. The govern­ment, along with open-in­ter­net ad­vo­cates, rea­soned that mak­ing Face­book syn­ony­mous with the on­line world for many new users would hurt com­peti­tors. There’s no short­age of soft­ware de­vel­op­ers in the coun­try, the

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