India’s internet population is growing the way it is expected to, maybe at a better rate. The 350 million figure for Internet users disclosed by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) might be more than what was expected but what is really making India stand out is the fact that over 60 per cent of this is coming from the mobile.
There is no other market in the world where the mobile dominates the Internet as much. So much so, that companies like Flipkart or Zomato would have been much smaller had the mobile Internet boom not happened in India. When India had 325 million Internet users, approximately 190 million were on mobile Internet, about 130 million on smartphones with just half of that figure in 3G.
However, in the coming months you will see the overall Internet user pie growing with almost all the growth happening on smartphones. And even there, a significant number will be on 4G.
In the past half year or so, affordable 4G smartphones have been flooding the Indian market and with there being no significant price differential between 3G and 4G devices at the entry-level range a sizeable chunk of the new smartphone sales are in 4G.
In fact, according to Cyber Media Research, 4G/LTE device shipments in India reached 5.7 million units during April-June 2015, recording a 154 per cent quarter-on-quarter growth. This will mean that by next year most of the smartphones sold in India will be 4G devices. Companies like Micromax have already suggested that up to 25 per cent of their smartphones will be 4G by the end of the year.
But 3G is not going to become redundant, nor is 2G. Service providers are expected to use these three technologies to help them manage the increasing pressure on spectrum. Actually, it is impossible for any of these technologies to completely solve spectrum issues now. By next year, we will see 2G, 3G and 4G offering different swim lanes with differentiated user experience. This is why the advent of 4G is important– it is going to free up spectrum in 3G as people migrate to the newer technology. The domino effect of this will be 2G becoming cheaper for the first time Internet users.