Half of Indians using mobile internet/data services

India’s Economic Times has a noteworthy piece which reports that close to half of the country’s mobile subscribers use advanced internet/data services from their phone.

From the article:

Nearly half of India’s mobile customers use some form of internet and web related data services on their handsets, offering a huge base for telecom companies to tap as they all launch third generation services in the country.

The numbers indicate the data potential that India holds: Customers who access some form of internet service on their handsets has risen 70% over the last 12 months to touch 214 million as of June 10, says telecoms regulator Trai. Analysts say this figure has risen to over 240 million as of September 10. This is more than ten times the number of internet connections on a PC in the country.

While there is no doubt that mobile internet and services usage are growing, the ET article is a little misleading as it groups social networking and data services together when there is a big difference between the two. A recent article (blogged here) suggested the country now has 33 million mobile social network users, this is a realistic stat though it is likely the number of mobile internet users is greater than this figure.

The next excerpt outlines the huge potential of mobile internet in India, with rural areas alone expected to see a 30 percent increase in mobile internet usage this year.

Unlike the West, Europe and other markets such as Japan and Korea, the first experience of the internet as well as email for vast majority of the country’s population is on a cellphone and not on a PC. India has over 650 million cellular connections, but the number of actual customers is estimated to be only about 450 million since many own double of even triple SIMS. A mere 6% of the 1.1 billion Indian have access to internet via computers, but the country enjoys a mobile telephony penetration of over 65%.

The main point to be made of India is that the country’s internet usage has huge potential to grow, particularly if its mobile internet usage grows at anything like the 70 percent growth rate of advanced services. Strong growth in mobile internet usage is likely to change India’s online identity, giving access to the 94% of the population unable to access fixed internet.