Catching the Indian Mobile Wave

Many global mobile network groups, and key companies in the ecosystem have at one time or another invested in the Indian mobile industry. Drawn to the sheer scale of the worlds largest democracy, mobile ought to be an enormous money earner for all involved. Little in India seems straight forward though. The jailing of a former telecoms minister at the centre of a storm over 2G licences has cleared the air after a long and acrimonious investigation in to corruption. Though it seems there is still a reluctance around investment in the Indian operators. 3G licences were awarded a year ago by the Indian government, with the result that no one network can serve the entire nation. With 16+ operators currently in play across the country, internal roaming is complex. Customers really want to get the full range of mobile services now. Data coverage is rapidly improving and smartphones are selling by the millions.

Current communication & information technology minister Kapil Sibal acknowledges that there are too many operators and is trying to relax the competition and merger laws to allow some consolidation. He is also keen to restructure the spectrum allocations and licensing to accelerate provision of high speed wireless data networks throughout India. Concurrently the Indian government is considering a recommendation by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India that mobile operators be mandated to source 80 percent of their equipment from domestic manufacturers by 2020, with tax breaks and subsidies becoming available to Indian infrastructure firms. Whether the proposed regulations will help or hinder the qualitative growth of the Indian networks is certainly up for debate.

Away from the politics, indigenous mobile device manufacturers are proliferating with at least a dozen new brands in the market. Indian OEMs Micromax, Karbonn, Maxx, and locally built Spice branded handsets have this year elevated themselves in to the top 10 selling device brands. This is giving the other high volume players, Nokia, Samsung and BlackBerry plenty to think about. The market for dual SIM phones is burgeoning in India. This is driven by the vicious discounting of voice tariffs that has lead to free calling to friends and family, and pay as you go rates of 0.2 UK pence per minute in some cases. Indian consumers have only recently recently had number porting available, and they are now looking to consolidate the value they get from their operator.

However you look at it, this is a very open and lively mobile market, second only in size to China. Recent TRAI figures suggest that there are over 600 million active mobile subscribers. With the explosion of sub $100 smartphones, the apps market will be enormous. Research from Opera in India indicates that mobile web use grew 337% in the last 12 months and that over 50 million people are accessing the internet on their phones. The regulatory environment allows for the development of ecosystems across the continent that are unique to the continent. Both India’s operators, and regulator are both saying that the future is all about Value Added Services. This presents both an enormous opportunity, and a huge challenge to deliver across a user base of literally several thousand different devices. Though for companies with successful apps and services on Android, BlackBerry and Symbian, now is the time to be thinking about localising for the Indian market place.

This upcoming series is focused on the strategies of, operators, device manufacturers, major mobile software companies, and the communities of mobile entrepreneurs served by the triggr and hasgeek events. I hope to explore the similarities, and contrast the cultural and technical differences to our established western view of the mobile markets.

I already have meetings set up with


Blyk India

Alcatel-Lucent India

Nokia India


… and a host of up and coming app developers.

If your company has offices in New Delhi and you’d like to tell Mobile Industry Review about yourselves and why you’re excited about the Indian industry. The schedule for meetings in New Delhi is from 12th to 17th September. Please get in touch now, dominic.travers (at) or +44 7810 646 848

I will be visiting Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai in November so please send through some info to arrange an interview if you’re based in any of these cities.

More to come over the next couple of weeks.

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