India sees rise in mobile-only Web users

Fueled by relatively inexpensive Web-enabled mobile devices along with attractive data plans, over 50 percent of Indians access the Internet via mobile.
Written by Nitin Puri, Contributor

According to stats by Mumbai-based financial advisory Avendus Capital, The Times of India reports, in contrast to developed nations that have 20 to 25 percent mobile-only Internet users, India's mobile internet penetration is more than double.

This growth is driven by young mobile users who are both connected on social media as well as avid users of apps and games. What's interesting is that the paid app market segment in India is still relatively small compared to those in developed regions, but this is set to grow.

Creating new content and generating advertising revenues are going to be two key challenges in the coming years to keep users engaged.

What I've generally found is portals operated by Indian telecom operators, such as Airtel and Vodafone, for example, could use an overhaul with a more user-friendly interface and offer more paid downloads. I've been a customer with both telcos, and I generally found content to be lackluster on both portals, along with poor access and download speeds. If Indian telecom operators reinvested some of their revenues into their own portals, they could potentially generate more in return, instead of having users going instead to third-party sites and downloading content from there.

That said, although such services are outdated and a bit of ancient history in developed nations, users in India still love their call ringtracks and ringtunes for their devices, and Indian telecom operators know this. Hence, this content is maintained and updated on a regular basis. If you ask me, though, it doesn't sound very professional if your boss or potential employer is calling you and they hear the latest Bollywood track on the other end of the line. I still prefer the traditional ringtone myself.

What makes mobile internet so popular in India is simply how much affordable and reliable it is compared to traditional broadband services available at home or in the office. In addition to the obvious benefit of being connected anytime, anywhere, compared to fixed connections, data plans offered by all Indian telecom operators are insanely cheap.

In terms of reliability, with fixed connections, if the power goes out or if there are network issues, it can sometimes take hours to get back online again. I remember a few years ago when it wasn't uncommon for the internet to be down at home for 1 or 2 days before a service technician was scheduled to be dispatched to resolve the issue. Now, downtimes are fewer, but for those who need to be connected 24 by 7 by 365, mobile internet is still the preferred choice. Add to this the popularity and rise of both tablets and phablets in India, and it's no wonder PC sales have diminished across the world, including India.

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