Mobile internet users to touch 46 million in September: IAMAI study

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | August 25, 2011
The study reveals that mobile phones have the potential to become a primary internet access point owing to the increasing influence of mobile apps, introduction of 3G services, availability of better mobile phones, and a rising mobile subscriber base.

The Mobile Internet in India Report 2011, published by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market research organisation IMRB, reveals that mobile internet users will touch a figure of 46 million in September, 2011. Of these, 35 million will be active mobile internet users (that is, accessing internet using their mobile phones, at least once a month). The research also suggests that there is a 15 per cent quarter-on-quarter growth in the usage of internet on mobile phones.

The study points out that 70 per cent of the claimed mobile internet users (urban India) belong to the top two SECs (SEC A and B). Along similar lines, about 55 per cent of the claimed mobile internet users are from the top eight metros, namely Mumbai, Delhi and NCR, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad. Additionally, about 63 per cent of the active mobile internet users are from the top eight metros.

As far as the latest telecom technologies (in terms of internet speeds and bandwidth) are concerned, India lags behind various countries. While quite a few countries today have transitioned to 4G technologies, people in India, even today, are using 2G technologies for internet access.

However, 3G services were launched towards the end of 2010, and are increasingly gaining popularity among users with the bandwidth, speeds, services and advantages that they offer.

Mobile internet usage is looking promising with the introduction of 3G spectrum and growing popularity of mobile applications (apps). Along with numerous other applications, 3G has enabled end-users with better options for internet access and opportunities for video calling, video-on-demand, and multi-tasking.

Speaking on the Mobile Internet in India Report, Dr Subho Ray, president, IAMAI, tells afaqs!, "3G roll out will probably reflect a lot of pent-up demand for internet on mobile and in the next 12 months, we expect a substantial rise in the user base as a result of this."

The study also claims that mobile applications will be at the heart of mobile internet growth. End users are appreciating the capabilities offered by various apps and are increasingly relying on these for completing their daily work, or even for leisure purposes. Mobile applications, custom-built for the urban and rural consumers, will be observed with rising affluence levels and demand on both fronts. Around 5.4 million active users have access to mobile apps.

Apart from 3G services and mobile apps, the introduction of exciting gadgets such as smartphones will also play a role in increased mobile internet usage. Data plans suited to the end users, which can be used in conjunction with such devices, are increasingly being sold by various telecom operators.

Introduction of tablets is another recent phenomenon that could provide users a better experience in accessing improved services 'on the go'.

Lower subscription rentals, availability of feature-rich cell phones at cheaper prices, increased digital literacy and greater awareness of the internet medium are some of the crucial factors contributing to mobile internet's penetration in India. The average handset cost for an internet phone is Rs 6,700, while the average mobile phone bill for an active mobile internet user is Rs 389.

Although online videos have been available on mobiles much earlier than mobile apps, the usage is on the lower side; lower bandwidth and speeds probably account for low usage among active mobile internet users.

Also, though e-banking is a convenient utility service for users, it is only used by about 1.96 million (12 per cent) people in the top eight metros. Factors such as security concerns and fear of misuse of private information could be attributed to this relatively lower figure. In terms of applications accessed the most, e-mail and search are typically the most-used ones across various age groups.

Interestingly, a sizeable number of active mobile internet users in the age group of 35-44 years use chat as an application. It is quite possible that these could be BlackBerry or other smartphone users who use the mobile medium to discuss business/personal matters. Also, a significant majority of people above the age of 45 years typically use only e-mail, search and chat as far as their mobile internet usage is concerned.

Primary research for the study was conducted through surveys among various households in 30 cities. This helped in understanding the penetration of mobile internet usage in terms of claimed mobile internet users and active mobile internet users in India.

Active mobile internet users were further interviewed to understand the applications accessed on the internet through mobile, the frequency of accessing each application, typical mobile bills, the type of mobile internet plans availed, and so on.

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