The number mobile internet users in India is estimated to touch 478 million by June 2018, buoyed by cheaper smartphones, faster connectivity and affordable services, according to an IAMAI report.

The number of mobile internet users stood at 456 million in December 2017, over 17 per cent higher than December 2016, said the report titled ‘Mobile Internet in India 2017’ that also identified young students as being the most prolific consumer of such services.

“The number of mobile internet users is estimated to reach 478 million by June 2018... Handset manufacturers have been producing more affordable smartphone/feature phones, while telecom service providers are now offering better connectivity at more affordable prices,” said the joint report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and KANTAR-IMRB.

The report estimates 291 million urban mobile internet users, with 187 million rural users by June. “Urban India witnessed an estimated 18.64 per cent year-on-year rise, while rural India witnessed an estimated growth of 15.03 per cent during the same period,” it said.

The report forecast that given a 59 per cent penetration, urban India is expected to witness a slowdown, while rural India with only 18 per cent mobile internet penetration would emerge as the next area of growth. It also revealed that mobile internet is predominantly used by youngsters, with 46 per cent of urban users and 57 per cent of rural users below the age of 25.

“Urban India has around twice the proportion of users over the age of 45, while the age range of 25 to 44 has almost equal distribution of users in urban and rural areas,” an IAMAI statement said detailing out the usage pattern across various age brackets.

Young students turned out to be the “most prolific users of most services”, while middle-aged and older men show greater propensity of using social networking and browsing. “Working women have the highest propensity of social networking and browsing, while non-working women have the highest propensity for text chatting,” it said.

The voice-related mobile spends have been coming down since 2013, and the popularity of Voice over IP (VoIP) and video chatting have further amplified this trend. This, in turn, led to a rise in proportion of data expenditure in comparison to voice expenditures for most users. Between 2013 and 2017, the ratio of data to voice went up from 45:55 to 84:16, the IAMAI said.

The report, however, noted that while mobile internet usage is fuelling internet penetration in India, it still remains confined to a few specific service categories. “The advent of digital entertainment has had considerable impact on mobile internet usage. Streaming services have a symbiotic linkage with usage growth,” it said.

Telecom operators now bundle subscription of such services with their offerings to woo customers and users are more likely to take up higher quality connections to ensure faster streaming and better audio and video quality services, it noted.