At the end of quarter in June 2010, there were 635.51 million wireless subscribers in India. The year-on-year growth over the same quarter of last year is 48.73%. The wireless tele-density reached 53.77 in June 2010. Even as the number of wireless subscribers continues to rise steadily in India, wireline subscriber base continues to decline. The number of wireline subscribers declined from 36.96 million at the end of March 2010 to 36.18 million in June 2010. This decline brought down the teledensity of wireline subscribers from 3.14 in March 2010 to 3.06 at the end of June 2010.
Wired phone subscriptions are declining in India, while mobile phone subscriptions are continuing to grow rapidly
(The figures are in millions) Source: The Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators, April-June 2010, TRAI
What is the current situation?
For a vast majority of Indians, the mobile will be the gateway to the Internet in India. 213.81 million Indians had mobile phones with data in June 2010. This was a jump of 69% from the same time last year. Based on our analysis, only 20 million were accessing the Internet through their mobile phone. However, if we look at active users (users who are accessing the Internet on their mobile phone at least once a month) there are only 3 million users who are accessing the Internet regularly on their mobile. On the other hand, there were 16.72 million wired Internet subscribers in June 2010. Among wired Internet users, only 9.47 million of them have a broadband connection. 
Despite only 16.72 Internet subscribers, since cybercafes are the most common access point for Internet in India, there were about 56.18 million active users of the Internet in India in 2009. Active users are those who have used the Internet once in the last one month. In addition, 77.46 million Indians claim to have used the Internet at any point in the past. Cybercafes are the most popular access point for the Internet in India. In 2008, 58% of active Internet users had accessed the Internet at a cyber cafe. This is followed by Internet access at office (37%) and home (33%). Currently, mobile Internet usage is restricted to only 4 percent of active Internet users. But with the introduction of 3G and Internet ready mobile devices, mobile provides the greatest potential for growth of Internet in India.
Source: Adapted from IMRB's Mobile Internet in India Report
Users of mobile internet in India
Mobile Internet users are using the mobile web primarily for communication through email and social networking sites (see figure). With the growing popularity of social networking in India, mobile web users in India are accessing Facebook and Orkut on their phones making them one of the most popular mobile sites. According to browser data from Opera, Facebook and Orkut are among the top three websites accessed on the mobile phone, but Google is still the number one mobile site. Overall, if we look across activities, according to Opera Mini and market research company Informate, social networking is the number one activity on the mobile web, search number two and email is number three.
A majority of mobile Internet users in India are young men and college going students, together are about 70 percent of active mobile Internet users in India. They are in the age group of 18-35 which comprises the largest segment of active Internet users in India. Interestingly, 11 percent of school going children are also accessing the mobile Internet in India.
|Rank||Site (Dec 09) I(rank in Nov-09)|
Source: Opera Mini
Top 10 Mobile Sites in India (Oct 2010)
|Rank||Site (Oct 2010)|
Source: Opera, State of the Mobile Report, http://media.opera.com/media/smw/2010/pdf/smw102010.pdf
Between Dec 09 and Oct 2010, Wikipedia fell from being the number 4 mobile website in India to number 8.
Networks and Carriers
Bharti Airtel is the leading wireless service provider in India with 136.92 million subscribers and 20% of the market share in June 2010. The new entrants among the service providers are Videocon and Etisalat. Among the network providers, Bharti Airtel has the largest share of rural subscribers (52.76 million & 24.1% of the market share of rural subscribers). But as a percent of total subscribers, Idea has the largest rural subscriber base with nearly half of its subscribers (48.9%) based in rural India. Since most of the cell phone subscribers in India are prepaid (which is cheaper than post paid), and use voice or text messaging primarily on their phone, the average revenue per user has been declining steadily over time for both GSM and CDMA providers. Most mobile analysts agree that network providers in India will be looking towards data as a source of revenue since the voice market is saturated, furthering the push towards the adoption of mobile Internet in India.
Wireless Subscriber base of network carriers in India in June 2010
Devices and Operating Systems
Although, Nokia still has the largest market share among mobile phone manufacturers in India, it is rapidly losing its hold on the Indian market. According to a report published by IDC, Nokia's market share fell by almost 20 percent in 2010 from 2009, falling to 36.3% from 54% in 2009. Nokia has steadily been losing its market share to low end phone manufacturers from India and China as they flood the Indian cost conscious market with low end and cheap phones. As stated earlier, the Indian mobile phone consumer is highly price conscious with half of mobile handsets in use were bought in Rs 1,500-3,000 range.
Nokia has been a leader in manufacturing cell phones with dual language keyboards and providing unicode for reading Indic scripts. It introduced Indic language keyboards in its low end phones that were targeted towards more price conscious consumers who are not well versed in English. Most operating systems don't support reading Indic languages also. Nokia introduced support for reading and writing of Devnagiri script in Symbian 9.2.
What does it mean for Wikimedia?
- India is poised for mobile Internet revolution for two reasons: (1) introduction of 3G (2) presence of large numbers of mobile ready devices. While the growth of wired Internet has been flat, there is widespread adoption of Internet ready mobile devices. We can expect more and more Indians to access the Internet on their mobile in the coming years. It is important for Wikimedia to develop and support mobile versions of English and Indic language Wikipedia sites. Wikimedia should also develop and support apps for the iPhone OS, Android, RIM and Nokia.
- There is always be a segment of Indians who will not have 3G connectivity in their areas or will not sign up for 3G since it is more expensive. These users will benefit from a mobile version of Wikipedia devoid of any images. It would be similar to Facebook zero that is optimized for speed. "It includes all the key features of Facebook as standard m.facebook.com, but photos are one click away so they don't slow down the experience." For more details read the Facebook blog at http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=391295167130
- Even though many Indians have Internet ready mobile devices with pre paid plans that allow for data access, data is still expensive and out of reach for most Indian users. Wikimedia should develop partnerships with large network carriers like Airtel, Reliance and Vodafone to provide free access to Wikipedia on the phone (no data cost).
- Since social networking and searching for information are the most common activities on the mobile phone in India, Wikimedia should develop partnerships with popular social networking websites like Facebook and Orkut and search engines like Google to provide an easy link to mobile versions of Wikimedia sites (English Wikipedia and Indic language Wikipedias).
- Wikimedia should work with phone manufacturers and mobile browsers to provide support for the ability to read Indic languages on the phone.
- Wikimedia should provide the ability to users to make small edits and share media on the phone on mobile versions of Wikipedia sites. The thorniest issue is support for Indic writing on mobile phones. Most phones don't have keyboards for writing in Indic languages. Some low end phones come with dual keyboards (English and other Indian language), but they are not Internet ready. It would be ideal if users could toggle between English and Indic languages keyboards. We spoke with one user who edited the Hindi Wikipedia on the phone. He did not have a phone with a Hindi keyboard that had the capability to access the Internet. One edit on the phone took about half an hour and had to be done across two devices. He has a basic entry level Nokia phone in which he puts his SIM card, types the text in Hindi (bilingual Hindi and English keypad), texts it to his mother’s phone since it is the only phone that supports copy and paste of Hindi text, launches the browser in his mom’s phone, goes to Wikipedia page and then makes the edit. "Deleting is very easy on the phone. But editing is too hard since it is done across phones.”
Implications for Technology for Indian Mobile Users
|Type of User||Tasks||'|
|Mobile Only Internet User||Create a lightweight mobile Wikipedia site with no media, Integrate with social networking, support for Indic lang||Provide editing tools for small edits, dual language keyboards|
|Mobile Primary & PC||Create a lightweight mobile Wikipedia site with no media, Integrate with social networking, support for Indic lang||Provide editing tools for small edits, dual language keybaords|
|PC Primary & Mobile||Create & support apps for better browsing experience, allow portability||Make mobile versions of popular vandalism/editing tools available on mobile|
|Mobile, but no Internet||Provide Offline access for reading|
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- Juxt Consult report on Mobile, 2010, http://www.juxtconsult.com/download.asp