Mobile internet usage is on the rise in India—the just-released Nokia Networks’ MBit Index study found that data service usage grew by 74% in 2014 over the year before. Given how large parts of the country are yet not linked by optical fibre, the reliance on mobile data services is only going to increase. As per a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International, the number of mobile internet users in India will reach 213 million by June—that would be a 23% jump in the numbers from December 2014. Inetrestingly, rural mobile internet users will account for around 24% of the June figure, having grown almost by a third from their December strength by just March this year.
The numbers indicate how digitally empowering mobile data services could be. For example, a student in a remote place can fill out applications in urban centres, or village/block-level healthcare workers could enable tracking of community health by uploading details on a real time basis, via mobile internet. The McKinsey Global Institute already ranks mobile services (especially data) among the top-10 disruptive technologies with large-scale virtuous effects for India in the coming years. It is time that the government took a long, hard look at its spectrum policy and tweaked it to ensure the widest possible spread at competitive rates for mobile internet.