The number of mobile phone subscribers in India has almost touched the billion figure mark. According to the latest report from TRAI mobile phone subscriber base in India recorded 6.71% YoY growth to 980.81 million users in Q2 2015. In the first half of 2015, The mobile subscriber base in India became stronger with 36.84 million new mobile phone users, which resulted in 6.72% growth compared to the same duration last year.
However, when we see the same figures from a different perspective, we find that mobile phone market in India has saturated now. The quarterly growth in Q2 2015 remains the slowest one in the recent few quarters. The subscriber base grew by just 1.11% QoQ, which is the lowest growth percentage in the last six quarters. Only 10.92 million new users bought their first mobile phone during the 3-month period ended on June 30, 2015.
The TRAI report, which has been compiled on the basis of information provided by the service providers, provides a bird’s eye perspective of the growing scenario of mobile subscriber base, overall telephone subscriber base and internet scenario in India, and also, how it has evolved over the past few quarters. We will now be taking an in-depth look at the subscriber numbers for both the Wireless Telephony Providers and Broadband Providers in the country.
Government Operators Continue Losing Grounds
The shift away from the PSU service providers BSNL and MTNL to the privately owned mobile service providers continues as the farther ones have lost ground yet again. Their 10.15% of the total market share in June 2014 has now been relegated to only 8.25% of the total market by the end of June 2015.
This can be attributed to the fact that privately owned companies offer better deals on mobile services than BSNL and MTNL, and are hence more popular among the Indian consumers. This is further demonstrated in the next point.
Bharti Airtel enjoys the largest pie of the mobile subscribers’ market in India with 23.52% of the total market share. The company strengthened its market position, up by 2.2% point, in the last one year. The fact that Airtel has been one of the forerunners in launching 4G LTE is one of the main causes for its continued dominance on the mobile subscriber base. The modern Indian prefers to be connected via high-speed internet connections, and they have voted with their wallets. The declining ASP (Average Selling Price) of 4G-enabled smartphones – thanks to Chinese smartphone manufacturers likes of Xiaomi, Huawei, Lenovo – helped Airtel to lead the market from the front.
The other two major mobile carriers in India, Vodafone and Idea together captured nearly 35% of the total mobile phone subscribers base in Q2 2015. Interestingly, despite growing scenario, Reliance failed to impress, rather lost its market to competitors in the last one year. The company’s market share declined from 11.90% in June 2014 to 11.21% in June 2015. Market analysts believe that the table will soon turn in the favor of Reliance as the company is all set to launch price-competitive 4G plans in 800 cities in India by the end of 2015.
Active Mobile Subscribers Base in India Soars
Out of the total 980.80 million subscriber base, 89.83% subscribers were active on the date of peak VLR in the month of June 2015. The figure of active mobile subscribers soared to 881 million, up by 2.87% compared to June 2014. This is a clear indication that mobile phones have become an inevitable element of a person’s life.
The last year has seen a major change in how we use our mobile phones, with internet consumption shifting more from traditional PC to handhelds. Not only has the hours of interaction with our devices increased, we have also started to use all our devices more frequently. According to a study, people check their mobile phone, on an average, ever 6.5 minutes and 150 times a day. Interesting enough, 81% of smartphone users have their phone switched on all the time, even in bed.
The State Of Broadband
In June 2015, 3.91 million new users joined the internet users’ community in India. The broadband subscribers’ industry in India recorded a whopping 52.49% YoY growth, totaling to 108.85 million users by the end of Q2 2015. to broadband in India in June 2015.
All is not rosy though as in June 2014 broadband subscriber base in India had recorded a higher monthly growth rate of 5.35% as compared to 3.71% growth rate in June 2015.
BSNL at the Helm of Wired Connections
In wired Broadband providers, BSNL rules the roost with 9.91 million subscribers while Airtel coming in a far second with 1.47 million subscriber base. On the flip side, BSNL lost some of its ground as its consumer base is down from 9.96 million subscribers in Q1 2015. The number of wired broadband connections is increased to 15.70 million in June this year, resulted in 1.15% quarter growth.
Airtel Takes the Lead in Wireless Broadband Connections
The scenario does a complete flip over though in the wireless Broadband sector where Airtel leads with 23.09 million customers, followed by Vodafone with 22.07 million subscribers. BSNL is languishing in the wireless space as only 8.29 million subscribers show confidence in its wireless internet service. Airtel has had a significant growth in Q2 2015 adding 2.52 million new customers between April and June to its wireless broadband subscriber base.
The total number of wireless subscribers increased from 83.68 million in Q1 2015 to 93.15 million in Q2 2015, resulting in a very healthy QoQ growth of 11.13%. The growth of the wireless broadband network indicates the shift to the mobile-centric media consumption trend that is prevalent in India. As faster data speeds over internet networks become more prevalent we will see the sustained growth among the wireless broadband service providers.
One interesting observation that stands out is that mobile phone subscriber penetration in India has reached almost 80% of the population. However, out of the 998 million mobile phone subscribers in India only a fraction of them are on smartphones. By the end of 2014, 123 million mobile phone subscribers were using smartphones and the figure is expected to go up to only 167.9 million by the end of the current year. Relatively the high price of smartphones compared to the average income of an Indian could be one of the main reasons behind such disappointing penetration. However, considering the fact that India is among the top three countries by the number of Internet users, social media users and mobile phone users, smartphone penetration percentage is nowhere close to the other two countries. The smartphone market in the US is already stagnated and more than 70% mobile subscribers in China use smartphones.
All this is about to change though as global phone manufacturers focus on India as the next stage in the battle for smartphone market supremacy. With the advent of cheap smartphones and faster and more accessible wireless data connections, India looks ready to get the next billion people using smartphones.