The GSMA stated in December 2012 that mobile penetration in India was at just 26%. While that number means there is huge room for mobile device adoption in the country, the cost of data plans and smartphones themselves has been the largest obstacle for users seeking internet-connected devices. Recent moves from telecoms and hardware manufacturers alike are fueling interest in India’s potential wireless explosion, should companies succeed in catering to a market that requires lower prices than, say, its U.S. counterpart.
Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries and one of India’s wealthiest men, is developing plans to bring 4G coverage to India, according to reports, although no launch date has been revealed for such a deployment. Sources told Reuters that Ambani is in talks with Samsung to create phones that would cost less than 5,000 rupees, or $90, and he also has plans for data. In early June, Reliance Jio Infocomm partnered with Ambani’s brother Anil’s telecom company Reliance Communications in a tower-sharing agreement, which will provide the infrastructure for future 4G coverage. But Reliance isn’t the only company aiming to take advantage of the potential market for high-speed wireless.
Bharti Airtel has reportedly cut its charges for 4G wireless as of June 24, offering 4G at 3G rates. Some remain skeptical of the strategy’s ability to expand the company’s subscriber base as Airtel has 4G coverage in just a few cities, but it remains a baby step in making 4G accessible and affordable to more users.
In the hardware field, Sony has officially spoken of its interest in focusing on the build-out of mobile potential in India. Even though Sony has a solid spot in the mid-tier phone market in the country as of an International Data Corporation report in March, it is still a self-acknowledged latecomer to the mobile scene on a global scale. The timing is good for Sony to get in on delivering more devices to a country making strides towards high-speed broadband, and the IDC’s report also noted that India has seen smartphone shipments increase 16% year-over-year.
These plans for high-speed broadband connections at cheaper rates and with more selections of internet-connected devices are still seemingly lofty goals for a country in which millions still do not have internet access, but with the attention of telecom conglomerates and big-name phone makers, perhaps the coming year will encourage India’s acceleration into mobile.