Indian mobile data (2G and 3G) increased 87 percent in 2013 against 92 percent growth in 2012, said Nokia Solutions & Networks (NSN).
Out of this, 3G data usage rose 146 percent last year. In fact, India’s 3G data usage outgrown global average of mobile broadband growth rate, NSN said addressing a select press meet today in Delhi.
3G represents 43 percent of total mobile data, an increase of 10 percent. 2G growth stabilized at 59 percent.
NSN India head Sandeep Girotra on 3G
NSN India head Sandeep Girotra said 3G will continue to grow in the next couple of years despite the planned investment in 4G LTE by telecom operators. He says NSN is bullish about 3G investments in India. For instance, Vodafone will increase its Capex in mobile broadband in the country.
In 2013, Cisco’s Visual Networking Index said global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent, while the number of mobile connections rose by another half billion.
NSN earlier predicted that with further improvement in the ecosystem (network coverage, devices, local content), 3G is poised well to expand further in 2013.
In 2013, 3G data grew 185 percent in category A circles that cover 36 percent of the Indian population, NSN said.
3G accounts for 31 percent of data traffic in category B circles that cover 39 percent of population in the country.
NSN said 3G users consume 3.6 times more data than 2G users. 3G subscribers use 532 MB per month against 2G users 146 MB per month.
3G data challenges in India
3G coverage in India is around 30 percent. 3G penetration is around 5 percent. Hence, there is huge potential for growth for 3G.
The NSN report noted that 3G coverage is inadequate in most of the towns and cities. The shortfall in coverage in category A is around 50 percent.
The 2013 MBiT Index study by NSN does not talk about mobile broadband speed or quality issues faced by telecom subscribers. But the study indicated about the coverage areas.
Some of the telecom operators are not increasing their Capex to address their subscribers’ mobile broadband QoS issues. For instance, MTS India Capex plan for 2014 will see substantial decrease due to its lack of focus in expanding in existing circles. It is waiting for the spectrum auction to improve network roll outs.
MTS India on Tuesday said non-voice revenues contribute 34.5 percent of total quarterly revenues. Last year, the telecoms rolled out its 3GPLUS Telecom Network (EV-DO Rev.B Phase II) across all its 9 circles of operations. Its HSD services now cover over 550 towns across 9 circles.
The company’s data card subscriber base for the quarter increased 11 percent to 1.34 million subscribers.
NSN statistics reflects some of the initiatives by telecom operators in India.
Idea Cellular on 3G sites
Idea Cellular, one of the main 3G operators in India, recently said 3G sites have gone up to 19,904 in the first nine month of fiscal 2014 from 17,140 in FY 2013 and 12,825 in FY 2012.
Data ARPU of Idea Cellular has improved to Rs 91 in Q3 FY 2014 against Rs 55 in Q2 and Rs 54 in Q1. Data revenue increased to Rs 6168 million (9.5 percent of total revenue) in Q3 FY 2014 from Rs 5416 (8.7 percent) in Q2 and Rs 4617 (7.2 percent) in Q1.
Idea Cellular’s 3G data usage is close to overtake its 2G data. Its 3G data consumption was 9,469 million MB in the third quarter of fiscal 2014 against 11,371 million MB of 2G data, 7,578 million MB of 3G (9,874 million MB of 2G) in Q2 and 6,334 million MB of 3G (7,457 million MB of 2G) in the first quarter of fiscal 2014.
Compare with China Mobile
In March 2014, China Mobile, which is betting big on 4G this year, said its mobile data revenue increased 24.4 percent to RMB 206.9 billion.
Data business of China Mobile contributes 35 percent revenue to telecommunications services, China Mobile said. Revenue from wireless data traffic rose 58.6 percent to RMB 108.2 billion.
Low investment in mobile network in India comparing with China Telecom
Interesting aspect is that Indian telecom operators are yet to spend heavily in mobile broadband roll outs. For comparison, China Telecom will invest $6.79 billion in mobile infrastructure in 2014 against $4.72 billion in 2013 and $6.1 billion in broadband, Internet and other areas in 2014 as compared with $8.13 billion in 2013.
In 2014, China Telecom will focus on building a nationwide integrated 4G 3G high-speed network to enhance customers’ experience and operating return.
Networks, broadband access, enhancement of intelligent network and integrated information services will be the main focus areas.
NSN recommends that telecom operators need to invest in SDN infrastructure. 3G will be the main vehicle for mobile broadband, but 4G is not far away. Till now, the focus of telecoms has been on network centric. It needs to change. Telecoms need to focus on service centric, customer centric and business centric aspects to monetize from 3G.