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India to have 367M mobile broadband users by 2016

Country at cusp of another "tectonic shift" with mobile broadband connections projected to surpass those in United States and become second-largest globally.
Written by Swati Prasad, Contributor

NEW DELHI--India will become the world's second-largest mobile broadband market by 2016, hitting 367 million mobile broadband connections and bypassing the United States.

According to GSM Association (GSMA), the country will be second only to China which will reach 639 million mobile broadband users, while the U.S. will clock 337 million.

The industry group said mobile broadband connectivity in India had been growing steadily since 3G licenses were awarded in September 2010.

"The mobile industry in India is set for immense growth as mobile broadband technologies such as HSPA (high-speed packet access)and LTE (long-term evolution) start to proliferate, but there is scope for far greater development," Anne Bouverot, GSMA's director-general said at a media briefing held her earlier this week.

She added that there are currently over 10 million HSPA connections across the country and this is expected to grow by 900 percent to over 100 million connections in 2014.

Here to launch GSMA's office here, Bouverot said: "India is an increasingly critical market for the mobile industry, both commercially and in policy terms through its influence throughout Asia-Pacific and the world."

Facilitate timely release of spectrum
Commenting on the country's future plans, GSMA said the Indian government must lay down a clear roadmap for spectrum allocation that is executed transparently. In its submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on the spectrum issue, the industry body said all available spectrum in the band, both returned spectrum and currently unallocated spectrum, should be made available in the forthcoming auction.

According to Sanjay Kapoor, Bharti Airtel's CEO fir India and South Asia, India currently has the world's third-largest Internet subscriber base with over 100 million users, and second-largest Facebook subscriber base with 43 million users.

"India is now poised on the cusp of another tectonic shift," said Kapoor, who was also at the briefing. However, he noted that this can only happen if more harmonized spectrum is released, ensuring high-speed broadband connectivity is available at reasonable rates. This will allow India to bridge the telephony divide and join the growing mobile broadband ecosystem, he added.

"Various studies have shown that a 10 percent increase in mobile penetration could lead to 1 percent increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), and a 10 percent increase in mobile broadband penetration could deliver a 1.4 per cent increase in GDP. Along with 2G and 3G, when 4G is deployed, India will be at the forefront of cutting-edge mobile broadband provision globally," he noted.

Over the last 15 years, since the launch of mobile services, Kapoor said the associated benefits have been tremendous for India and its people. "GDP growth rates have increased, thanks in large to the empowering effects of mobile telephony," he said.

Swati Prasad is a freelance IT writer based in India.

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