Mobile data consumption in India has grown at a super fast 24 times in last five years, and is set to grow four-fold in the next five years through fiscal 2022, with data subscribers expected to double beyond 900 million and penetration reaching 80% from 40% at present, Crisil said in a report, adding that the faster penetration would be supported by a continued drop in tariffs given the intense fight for the all-crucial market leadership.
Crisil said that telcos will have to increasingly sweat per-subscriber usage to bolster incremental revenues.
The agency added that India’s mobile data usage per subscriber nearly doubled to around 1.3 GB per month between fiscal 2013- 2017 on faster adoption of 3G and 4G services. The per subscriber usage will reach 2.3 GB per user by 2022, or closer to the trend in many evolved data markets, and stabilise thereafter.
It added that free data offered by Reliance Jio, and a sharp 40% fall in tariffs in fiscal 2017 were the growth propellants. Given the operators’ quest for market leadership, the decline in mobile data prices could continue in the medium term as well, but at a slower pace. "While not immediately but over the long run, data usage growth on mobile could stabilize for the operators, as Wi-Fi gains ground. A comparison of trends across countries indicates higher data usage is strongly linked to higher speeds, whereas India’s current mobile data speeds on 4G are less than half that of say South Korea," Crisil said in a statement.
Crisil said that WiFi can help reduce costs and increase speeds significantly for a user, adding that rapid expansion in Wi-Fi infrastructure will cause a shift in data traffic to fixed lines after fiscal 2022. India lacks in Wi-Fi hotspots, which is reflected in the time spent on surfing internet over Wi-Fi being a low 18% compared with 50% in the US.
"This puts enormous pressure on mobile networks, which carry the bulk of internet traffic. To be sure, the proportion of data traffic consumed on mobile is high in India, way above 6-7% globally. If one even looks at offload data proportion for mobile networks it stands at 60% globally indicating most large data markets offload large proportion of data to Wi-Fi (fixed line linked) networks. India needs to catch up significantly with close to 35,000 Wi- Fi hotspots," Crisil said.
Furthermore, Crisil added that videos contribute nearly 80% to total data traffic (direct and indirect) in India. The video viewership is dominated by regional languages – nearly 60% in Hindi and some 35% in other regional languages. Evolution of content in regional languages will play a pivotal role as rural subscribers grow faster.
The agency said that time spent by Indians is already in line with evolved markets. On average, Indian users are on their mobiles for 3 hours, bulk of it on social media and messaging apps. The usage is already in line with adult US mobile users who spend 3 hours and 20 minutes on non-voice mobile services. However, surveys indicate that US mobile users spend less than 30 minutes on social networking sites and 30 minutes on videos.