Mobile data subscribers in the country are expected to grow over two times to reach 501 million by 2017-18 led by increasing consumer engagement with mobile phones, availability of low-cost smartphones and expansion of data networks, a report has said.
“We project mobile data subscribers to expand from 198 million as of FY14 to 501 million by FY18 and data traffic to jump sevenfold, making mobile data a compelling Rs 883 billion ($15 billion) annual revenue opportunity,” global brokerage firm CLSA said in a report.
The firm said handsets are becoming the primary means for accessing the internet and mobile data usage is surging as social networking, music, email, video and m-commerce attract all categories of subscribers.
“Fuelling the expansion of data traffic are low-cost smartphones, which have only just begun to replace feature phones; and at 13 per cent penetration there is a huge pent-up demand,” it added.
CLSA said social media has also been instrumental in driving engagement. Giving an example, it said there are over 108 million active Facebook users in India and that figure is growing at over 20 million per year.
“Interestingly, nearly 75 per cent of those users access the site through mobile devices,” it said.
The report said smartphones have lowered the entry barrier to internet access significantly as they are available for 30 per cent of the cost of a personal computer (USD 50, versus USD 170) and just 3 per cent of per-capita income, making them extremely affordable.
“Leading manufacturers are sensing this growth opportunity in the affordable smartphone market and have lined up multiple offerings in the USD 30-100 price range,” it added.
India’s smartphone penetration of 13 per cent is still very low, but the market is seeing an expanding range of both affordable and high-end devices.
“We expect smartphone penetration to triple over 2014-18 to 41 per cent, driven by the increasing availability of affordable smartphones,” the report said.
Along with the increasing availability of affordable smartphones, the acceleration of data-network rollouts by mobile operators is also driving mobile data adoption, it added.