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India will have an estimated 1.36-billion mobile subscribers by 2020, up from 812-million connections in 2011. That’s according to research from Analysys Mason, a company that claims to provide “market intelligence worldwide to leading commercial and public-sector organisations in telecoms, IT, and media”.
The company reckons, however, that just over half these subscriptions will belong to unique users. A combination of factors, all related to what Analysys Mason calls “affordability constraints in rural areas”, mean that unique subscriptions will only reach 54% in 2020, up from 34% in 2011.
Among the factors slowing the growth in unique subscriptions is the dual-SIM phenomenon. Phones with the ability to swap between two SIM cards held simultaneously are popular in emerging markets in general, but are particularly so in India.
One handset manufacturer that has recognised the phenomenon is Nokia. A number of its recently launched Asha phones come with advanced dual-SIM capability.
Another factor to consider is the large number of inactive SIM cards in the country.
Sourabh Kaushal, Lead Consultant at Analysys Mason reckons that “Operators need to understand the multiple-SIM phenomenon and inactivity drivers in emerging markets in order to evaluate their true revenue potential.
“The current market structure has resulted in a high proportion of multiple SIMs and inactive users, which camouflages the country’s actual teledensity and makes it difficult to evaluate the market’s true revenue opportunity.”
Analysis Mason claims its research shows that around 30% of SIM cars in India are inactive. This, says the company, results in India’s mobile operators losing out on a significant amount of potential revenue.
The research firm’s advice when it comes to fixing this problem, boils down to the idea that “operators need to control the entire user experience throughout the customer lifecycle process “.
The adoption of 3G and 4G devices is expected to continue at a slow pace for the next couple of years, largely due to the high cost of 3G data plans and 3G enabled devices. From 2013, however, Analysis Mason reckons that operators will begin migrating “3G-capable handset users to 3G networks, resulting in high adoption of these services”. The research firm reckons the resulting device adoption will mean 3G subscribers will accounts for 57.1% of all Indian connections in 2020.
Data only SIM connections are also expected to be on the rise in the next few years as devices using them to connect to the internet — such as laptops, netbooks, and tablets — become more and more common.
This growth in 3G and, eventually, 4G networks, means that mobile devices will likely have an important part to play as more and more Indians go online. At least one estimation believes India’s current online population of 100-million is set to triple to around 300-million by 2014.