The mobile industry in India has scaled dramatically over recent years to become one of the country’s biggest success stories. With over half a billion mobile subscribers, the Indian market is already the second largest in the world.
Technology migration is under way and accelerating, with more than 40% of mobile connections forecast to be running over mobile broadband networks by 2020.
India had 481 million unique subscribers and nearly 1 billion connections of the second quarter of 2015. It is the second biggest mobile market in terms of subscribers and the third-largest smartphone market in the world. There were 185 million smartphone connections as of mid-2015, and a further half a billion new connections will be added by 2020. The Indian mobile market is unique with 12 active mobile operators, and is by some distance the most competitive market in Asia Pacific. Voice pricing is already low by international standards. Although data traffic is growing strongly, operators are handicapped in their efforts to monetise this by the high cost of spectrum and the limited amount of spectrum allocated for mobile services.
The Indian mobile industry is already helping to deliver a growing and innovative mobile ecosystem, which is transforming not only how people communicate but increasingly how they do business.
The India government has recognised the potential of digital technologies to address some of the socio-economic challenges in the country with the launch of its Digital India initiative. This looks to empower 1 billion subscribers by providing internet access to all and make broadband a utility for every citizen. The lack of alternative infrastructure in the country means that mobile technology will play a central role in the realisation of the Digital India initiative.
Mobile already makes a significant contribution to economic growth and job creation in India. In 2014, the mobile industry was responsible for 6.1% of India’s GDP, a figure that will increase to 8.2% by 2020. The mobile ecosystem directly provided employment to 2.2 million people in India in 2014, which will increase to 3 million by 2020. In 2014 the industry made a contribution of INR88,000 crore ($14 billion) to the funding of the Indian public sector, a figure that by 2020 will grow to INR122,000 crore ($22 billion). The 2014 and 2015 spectrum auctions have generated government revenues of more than INR1.75 lakh crore ($28 billion).
If both the longer term transformative potential of the mobile ecosystem and the objectives of the Digital India initiative are to be realised, increased broadband capacity will be key. The quality and coverage of a country’s telecoms infrastructure is now a key competitive differentiator in the global economy. Broadband connectivity is already delivering significant benefits in markets across Asia, in both economic and social terms. The immediate priority in India is to attract the major investment required to further roll out mobile broadband networks that are accessible and affordable, which in turn requires the provision of more internationally harmonised spectrum. Only then will the country be able to meet the targets of the Digital India program.