The future of high speed data services in India
It's been quite long since the talks about the market and future of data intensive services in India are going about. One can put a point that 3G was not a runaway success in India and thereby question its future, but by subscribing to that viewpoint would be a gross miscalculation. The human civilization has never adopted changes in such feverish pace as in the case after the industrial revolution and even more so in the IT revolution. One has to give any economy some time to develop synergy between the Government, Industry & the citizens when any sweeping reform is bought. Talking about the Indian telecom industry, the growth story has been remarkable where there are an aggregate of about 913 million wireless subscribers by the end of July this year, second only to China.
Indian's have shown their allegiance towards technology by adoption of mobile device, tablets to smart phones and to low end feature phones irrespective of the societal strata they belong. The maturity of the users is also slowly evolving towards understanding the benefits and uses of high data speeds on 3G networks. This is exactly what the operators are waiting for which is reflected by heavy marketing of VAS which users are missing out on. This maturity is just round the corner, and how? Operators and the users go in tandem. As the users evolve, so do the policies of the operators. The recent 3G tariff cut is an indicator. The MVAS industry is warming up to give a plethora of choices to the millions of users. Digivive, in this regard, is one of the leading players in the industry which has its Mobile TV application, nexGTv out there to cater to this burgeoning sector. As the wants of the users would increase with maturity, so would be the mobile industry with better high speed data services and rich media applications providing the much needed reason to the masses to switch to a better network.
Apart from that there is a great impetus from the Government as well in the MVAS arena. In its National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2012, the Government has clearly laid out the objective to 'Promote an ecosystem for participants in VAS industry value chain to make India a global hub for Value Added Services.' Moreover, the NTP is 'designed to ensure that India plays this role effectively and transforms the socio-economic scenario through accelerated equitable and inclusive economic growth by laying special emphasis on providing affordable and quality telecommunication services in rural and remote areas.'
In this case, the role of MVAS is formidable. Probably the biggest empowerment device which is in the hands of the village or Tier III level folks is the mobile device they clinch to. As per the official mandate, the government has to think about inclusive growth which cannot neglect the people who are in the hinterland. This is an immense opportunity area where work needs to be done both by the Government and the Industry by way of providing meaningful services right to the individual/community which is currently extended by few private players in broader areas only. Schemes for using tablets for education is already there which require data rich services. Similarly, many innovative ideas can be implemented removing some big concerns of such people like streamlining of transportation services, agricultural based real time information, or at the other side, even having a video chat with their loved ones. This would truly help bring down the 'Digital Divide' we keep talking about.
Another significant case point for this relatively unchartered territory is the need to unlock new revenue sources. ARPU in Indian telecom industry has taken considerable beating where Voice, SMS and primary VAS services have gone down to razor thin margins which the industry has got itself into. At this juncture, the industry needs to do a rethinking from where it will drive higher profitability and the answer is the data intensive MVAS industry. The growth figures of 3G uptake after the tariff reduction re-establishes the fact that how Indian mobile users mean business when it comes to mobiles. Till end of June this year, 3G had reported a growth of 78% compared to 47% growth of 2G in India. Moreover, as expected, the data consumption of 3G mobile user is about 4 times than that of a 2G mobile user. What the industry needs to look at is to ensure a continuous and affordable offering. Affordability has been taken care of recently but the discontinuity is still a reported issue which fails to give the required punch.
The key is therefore to think about proving the best value proposition to the user, be it the urbane user of a metro or a fellow citizen from a village who have their own aspirations waiting to get true from their handhelds. High speed network is listening to them, which has started taking infant steps to launch a new wave in India.