Internet users in India are likely to reach up to 550 million in 2018, primarily led by affordable access and improved awareness, a report said on Thursday.
The country's internet user base was around 190 million in 2014.
"The full rate and extent of future internet penetration depends on several factors, but we expect the number of internet users to at least double, from 190 million in 2014 to 400 million in 2018. Our most aggressive forecast predicts as many as 550 million users in 2018," Boston Consulting Group (BCG) said in a report.
The report further said that internet-connected urban population will increase from 130 million to 300 million, but the real action will take place in more-rural areas, where the user base could easily expand by up to 40% per year, from 60 million in 2014 to 280 million in 2018.
"Three factors—expanding reach, more affordable access, and improved awareness—will be the primary drivers of online growth," it said.
BCG said network availability needs to catch up with the expected increase in the installed base of Internet-enabled devices.
"The current universal coverage of 2G networks in urban areas must be replicated in the countryside and a similar improvement must take place in the penetration of 3G and 4G services in major cities," it said.
The availability of low-cost internet-enabled devices will be key to increasing internet penetration among the lower-income population, according to the report.
"Nearly two-thirds of mobile phones sold in India today are internet ready, but the least expensive models still cost USD 60 or more. This is too expensive for many; prices need to come down," the report said, pointing out that awareness will play a key role in adoption of internet.
"This lack of understanding represents the most formidable barrier to online adoption, with the unavailability of devices a distant second at 36%. At the same time, almost four-fifths of urban nonusers, despite being aware of the internet, are disinclined to go online," it said.