Rural India logs into mobile Internet

Rashmi Pratap Mumbai | Updated on November 21, 2017

When 22-year-old Raghavendra Singh set out to order books online, sitting in Bihar’s Solara village, little did he expect to complete the transaction on his smartphone without losing network connectivity. But he did. The order was placed and the books were delivered in five days. Not only did it encourage him to shop more online, others in his village too are now regularly surfing the Net on their mobiles.

Miles away in Bakrana, about 55 km from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Harit Patel is addicted to his mobile. Constantly updating his status on Facebook and Twitter, the teenager has discovered a new way of keeping himself busy during summer vacations. Singh and Patel are among the growing number of users in villages, small towns and tier III cities who are accessing data over mobiles and giving a fillip to operators’ data revenues.

“We are observing increase in demand for data services from small towns. Surprisingly, rural customers, especially youngsters, are also accessing social networking sites and search-based applications on their mobiles,” said Idea Cellular CMO Sashi Shankar.

Idea’s data ARPU, the blended average revenue of 2G and 3G data users, increased by Rs 3 to Rs 55 in the last quarter of FY13. The number for Bharti Airtel too was Rs 55 in that quarter.

Big growth

According to a Nokia Siemens Networks study, mobile data in India grew 92 per cent year-on-year in FY13. In C circles, comprising economically under-developed and low revenue-potential States (such as Bihar, Orissa and States of the North East), which include some of the remotest villages of India, 2G data usage grew by 84 per cent between December 2011 and December 2012. “In category C circles, data usage remains dominant and is growing fast,” said NSN’s Mobile Broadband (MBit) Index report released last week.

While 3G coverage is as yet restricted to metros and big towns, in rural areas and smaller towns, EDGE-based (2G) networks are used to access data. “Reduction in prices of smartphones is broadening the coverage of data users to rural areas. Operators are also enhancing EDGE-based connectivity, through which most data services can be used relatively easily,” says Mohammad Chowdhury, Leader-Telecom Industry for PwC India.

With 60 per cent of India’s population living in rural areas, it is almost imperative for operators to tap them to recover billions of dollars invested in data networks so far.


Published on May 31, 2013

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