3G set to propel mobile internet penetration in India

Written by Nikita Upadhyay | Nikita Upadhyay | Mumbai | Updated: Mar 1 2009, 04:35am hrs
Mobile internet usage has barely kicked off in India. The active and non-active mobile internet subscriber base stands at a mere 88 million, which comprises 28% of the total mobile subscriber base. However, with the introduction of 3G in India, the mobile internet usage is expected to observe an upward trend. According to analysts, within the next three years, about 200-250 million mobile subscribers would be using the mobile wireless services in some form or the other. Also, a majority of the mobile users will access the internet for the first time via their mobile phones.

Lack of content options, slow download speed due to low bandwidth availability and the steeply priced general packet radio service (GPRS) enabled handsets have been a few reasons contributing to low mobile internet usage in India. Some content accessed by subscribers in calendar year 2008 that experienced a huge demand includes news, game downloads, music downloads, and video downloads. However, compared to the previous year, a significant lower percentage was recorded in ring tone downloads, while the interest in location information, social networking and sports remained about the same.

Girish Trivedi, deputy director, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan, South Asia and Middle East, said, It would be the subscribers with high GPRS usage who will initially upgrade to 3G. Eventually, mobile phones would to be transformed from communication enablers to lifestyle enablers for a section of consumers. Availability of mobile internet at high speed (2mbps) with 3G would expand the market size and reach to rural areas. Internet is either not available or speed is extremely poor in the rural areas and hence 3G would help drive mobile Internet penetration.

"In India, we expect a broad range of 3G applications to co-exist. These applications include entertainment and utility like mobile internet, 3G data cards, m-email, social networking, m-search, mobile advertisement, m-commerce, m-banking, gaming, news, video and music downloads, etc, says Piyush Choudhary, an analyst with Centrum Broking.

The hitch amongst the mobile subscribers for activation, usage and finally pricing of the GPRS service has resulted in its stunted growth. Also the insufficient spectrum available has led to slow speed and low quality of service (QoS) within existing GRPS users," Trivedi said. According to Choudhary, lack of marketing initiatives from operators due to their focus on network expansion and voice penetration has additionally resulted in poor mobile internet usage in India.

Slow drive

Active, non-active mobile internet subscriber base stands at a 88 million

Lack of content options, slow download speed contribute low usage