A Panorama of the Mobile Broadband Landscape of India

With the scampering growth in innovative technologies and the Digital Revolution, the need to stay aware, connected, compact and mobile has become an imperative. And the factors which act as the enablers of this need are- the penetration of Internet and smartphones.

India is a highly fragmented and diverse marketplace in terms of income, education, profession and interests. This report by Ericsson, lays impetus on how this diversity affects the perceived value of services, and create a demand for more personalized offerings.

Current Scenario

The demography of India comprises of a major section with one of the youngest populations in the world with a median age of 26 years. Consequently, the Indian youth market remains the largest for smartphone and mobile internet use.

Lately however, there has been an increase in users over the age of 50 adopting mobile broadband. The primary reason encouraging these users, is the desire to stay connected with peers who are scattered across both India and the rest of the world, particularly through email, chat applications and instant messaging. Another key factor which is triggering this tendency, is the the ability to indulge in activities and hobbies later in life, or during retirement.

For others, standing on equal footings and keeping up with the present generation or on top of work-related news are compelling drivers.

Following is a graphical representation showcasing the change in the distribution of smartphone mobile internet users, based on age:


Moreover, talk of this distribution in terms of gender, there has been an evident increase in the number of female users in urban India, with 34% now accessing mobile internet on smartphones, in comparison to 20% in 2013.



In general, the Indian broadband landscape is evolving with each passing day. One in three people uses smartphone in urban India. Similarly, there has been a conspicuous increment in the number of smartphone and mobile broadband users in the lower socioeconomic strata of the society over the last couple of years.

With the decline of smartphone prices in India, those from the low income backgrounds now hold a bigger opportunity to enjoy the perks of digitization. Regardless of income, age, gender and education, Indians are immersing themselves in the networked society by using smartphones and mobile internet.

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Mobile data

A few of the popular services, giving a fillip to the growth in the number of smartphone users are- social networking, instant messaging and video & music streaming. As per a survey conducted by Ericsson, on a weekly basis, 70% of the users stream video and 40% of them use their smartphones to stream music.

Along with online entertainment, Indian smartphone users are increasingly adopting online navigation, eCommerce and cloud storage services.

36% of the urban mobile internet users access financial services weekly on their smartphones. Mobile banking for instance, has emerged as one of the most innovative products in the financial services industry. This has further led to a tremendous increase in the use of mobile devices by customers. Not only do the customers buy products through these devices but also carry out the pre-buying activities including browsing and product comparisons.

Changing Urban Scenario

The smartphone mobile broadband revolution in India continues to be dominant in the areas where it began, i.e, the key metropolises, for these cities are developed urban centers that offer a myriad of choices of recreational facilities. Contrary to this, smaller cities and towns have fewer options such as digital theatres, large retail chains and shopping malls. Consumers in smaller cities and towns are rapidly embracing smartphones and mobile internet to bridge the gap and bring new, affordable entertainment. For many, mobile technology represents an easy to carry and economical alternative to other personal technology devices.

Following is an infographic representing urban smartphone penetration:

Growing Demand for Services

In addition to social networking and online entertainment, smartphone users in India are rapidly availing greater cloud storage services.

Financial services have become a primary centre of demand. This is likely due to India’s regulatory financial inclusion mandates, the push by financial institutions towards digital services, and mobile money services launched by operators. Swift online financial transactions help to increase personal finance control and experience, while saving on time and travel.
eCommerce has revolutionized the business scenario. It is eventually becoming the most preferred way of availing goods and services. Of those users not currently using eCommerce services, 58 % stated that they would begin to do so in the next 6 months.

“Adoption of these multiple online services is becoming a way of life, particularly as urban mobile internet users want to be more efficient, more productive and better informed”, states Ericsson in its report.

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A factor that acts as the biggest roadblock in the adoption of mobile broadband is affordability, especially in India, given its diverse market where hugely varied socioeconomic influences affect price sensitivity. 88% of Indian smartphone owners choose not to use mobile broadband because they find it exorbitant.

Digital illiteracy acts as another deterrent as it creates a gap between ownership of smartphones and the ability to use all of the features offered. 30% of smartphone users not using mobile broadband stated that they do not have the digital knowledge to effectively use apps and digital services, and therefore, do not see any point in subscribing to mobile broadband.

A further 48% are unable to differentiate between 2G and 3G speeds and thus, see no advantage in switching to a high speed service.

Last but not the least, lack of understanding of Data Plans translates into a major hinderance on this path.

Following is a succinct paragraph reccomending the points that must be kept in mind while selecting a Data Plan:

One of the most important things to be understood while selecting a data plan is the tariff. Consumers must select the tariff that best suits their needs. However, the main problem that arises in this situation is that 55 %of urban mobile internet users say they do not understand their data plan options, and that they are confused by the details. Only 12 % of urban mobile internet users visit their operator’s website to recharge, pay bills or use other services.

People say they understand their plan perfectly, and are able to make an accurate judgment when deciding on a plan constitute only 10%.

Data plan

Way Ahead

Needless to say, mobile internet is gradually becoming an everyday essential for the Indian population. However, there’s still a section of the society who are alienated from this service due to poverty of awareness, paucity of digital knowledge, monetary dearth and lack of understanding of plans. Once these issues are addressed, Indian consumers could become the beneficiary of the optimum value of mobile broadband services in the near future.

To download the complete report, click here.