The GSMA which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide said on Tuesday that India will become the second largest mobile broadband market globally within the next four years with 367 million Mobile Broadband connections by 2016 after China which will have reached 639 million Mobile Broadband connections in the same period.
But India will overtake the US, which will account for 337 million mobile broadband connections by 2016. Since 3G licenses were first awarded to mobile operators in India in September 2010, mobile broadband connectivity has grown steadily. There are now more than 10 million HSPA connections across the country, and this is expected to grow exponentially, by 900 per cent, to more than 100 million connections in 2014. This will make India the largest HSPA market worldwide within the next two years, surpassing China, Japan and the US in the process.
“India is taking great strides towards the uptake of data and already has the third largest Internet subscriber base in the world with more than 100 million users, and the second largest Facebook subscriber base in the world with 43 million users,” said Sanjay Kapoor, CEO - India & South Asia, Bharti Airtel.
“The mobile industry in India is set for immense growth as Mobile Broadband technologies such as HSPA and LTE start to proliferate, but there is scope for far greater development,” said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA. “To take full advantage of this, the Indian government should facilitate the timely release of additional spectrum in a fair and transparent way for all stakeholders. The benefits are clear to see – a 10 per cent increase in Mobile Broadband penetration could contribute as much as US$80 billion (INR 3,506 billion) of revenue across the country’s transport, healthcare and education sectors by 20152.”
According to a recent study3 by the GSMA’s Wireless Intelligence service, despite a large rural population, mobile growth in India is being largely driven by more affluent communities in cities. Net additions in urban areas reached 85 million last year compared to 57 million in rural areas, with mobile penetration increasing by 20 percentage points in urban areas to 161 per cent, against a 6.5 percentage point rise in rural areas to 36.6 per cent.
“India is now poised on the cusp of another tectonic shift but this can only happen if more harmonised spectrum is released, ensuring high-speed broadband connectivity is available at reasonable rates, which will allow India to bridge the telephony divide and join the ranks of the growing Mobile Broadband ecosystem,” said Himanshu Kapania, Managing Director, Idea Cellular.
“Mobile Broadband, which is emerging as one of the strong growth areas in the Indian telecommunications sector, can contribute significantly to the social agenda of bridging the digital divide,” said Srinath Narasimhan, Managing Director of Tata Teleservices Limited.
The provision of Mobile Broadband in rural and remote areas will help India bridge the so-called “digital divide”. It will improve productivity, help overcome the constraints of transport infrastructure and provide much needed services such as banking, health and education. Given the significant social and economic benefits, expanding affordable access to Mobile Broadband should be a high priority of the Indian government.
According to Wireless Intelligence, with an average retail price of US$500, the cost of an LTE smartphone is four times the average monthly GDP per capita in India, and at an average of US$200, the retail price of an LTE USB dongle is twice an Indian’s monthly income on average4. As LTE networks proliferate worldwide and more devices become available, costs will come down. Initiatives like the introduction of the low cost Aakash tablet in India are helping spur widespread access to the Internet in emerging markets, but more can be done.