16-24-year-olds use 3G mostly for entertainment

Third-generation mobile services (3G) are not just the privilege of those in the metros and urban areas. Going by Idea Cellular’s 3G subscriber additions, new customers are coming mainly from semi-urban and rural areas.

“The major additions are coming in from rural and mid-sized towns, where there are no other options for Internet access other than the mobile phone. There are only fixed lines in these areas and accessing Internet over these lines is painfully slow,” Idea Cellular Managing Director Himanshu Kapania said.

The GSM operator, a part of the Aditya Birla group, has 3.1 million active 3G subscribers as of June 30, up from about 2.6 million as of March 31.

The additions have been recorded from remote villages of Kolhapur and Nagpur in Maharashtra, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, and Guwahati in Assam. Users in rural interiors of Bihar, Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and Haldwani in Uttarakhand are also upgrading to 3G services, Kapania said.

3G, a set of standards used for mobile devices and telecommunication services, enables an user to access services such as mobile TV, video calling/conferencing, mobile Internet and normal voice calls.

“Entertainment per se is the exciting story,” Kapania said, adding that data use by volume is growing every month.

“We did a survey and found that youngsters in the age group of 16-24 are the main users of 3G services at these places. They use it to download movies, video and song files, and access social networking sites such as Facebook or Orkut. Youtube is also widely accessed,” he added.

Idea Cellular, which has 3G services in more than 3,000 towns, expects this trend to grow, especially as handset prices are expected to halve.

“At present, 3G-enabled mobile phones — Chinese handsets, white-labelled by operators — are priced at about $100, and including taxes and other levies, they are sold at about Rs 6,000. We expect this to fall to Rs 3,000 over the next 18 months,” he said.

The growth in 3G is following the exact pattern of 2G. First, the proliferation of network, then fall in tariffs and followed by fall in device prices. “This is happening in 3G, too,” says the Idea Cellular chief.

rajesh.kurup@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 10, 2012)
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