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”
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
Europe builds robots to care for the elderly Instacart scrambles to cover delivery costs
Innovation: Grab-andgo vital signs