TECH TALK: India Trends: Mobile Phones

As yet another December gets ready to give way to a new January, it is time for a look back to the year that was and what we can expect in the coming year. A little introspection can help things in perspective and help us see the forest rather than just the trees. Hopefully, it will also help us distill key trends which we can apply at work or in entrepreneurial ventures. [You can also take a look at my last years column.] The focus is on India. What are the key technology-related trends that we can distill from what we are seeing happen around us? We start with looking at mobile phones.

Look here, look there they are everywhere. At over 45 million, Indias base of cellphones now exceeds its landline base. The average monthly revenue per phone is about Rs 400 ($9). About 90% of the revenues for operators comes in from voice, and 7-8% from SMS. The rest comes in from value-added services: ringtones, games, and the like. Whats missing: enterprise services. Operators in India are now launching 2.5G services. Even the BlackBerry is now available in India although at a very steep investment. The growth in mobile phones is likely to continue, with the 100 million figure to be crossed sometime in 2006. Increasingly, the focus will be on increasing subscriber revenues through value added services.

In the context, mobile gaming is emerging as one key area. BBC News wrote:

The Indian mobile gaming market is expected to generate about $26m by the end of 2004, according to market analysts In-Stat/MDR. Analysts say cheap rates and a huge youth market is driving the market. India has a large population of under-25s, and many in urban areas are fast adopting mobiles as must-have gadgets. India’s mobile gaming market will bring in about $336m by 2009, according to the report.

Services other than just voice calls which are offered by mobile operators in India have, as a result of the huge rise in subscribers, grown significantly and rapidly. “The growth of this market sector has attracted publishers, developers, animators, musicians, and content providers, and is also stimulating the development of innovative business models,” said Clint Wheelock, director of In-Stat/MDR’s wireless research group. “Mobile gaming is not just about fun; it also represents one key element of a rich mobile entertainment experience for consumers, and a lucrative market opportunity for industry players.”

One of the byproducts of the infrastructure set up by the wireless operators for data services. Of special note is the network set up by Reliance Infocomm covering more than 1,000 cities and towns. From lottery terminals to ATMs and credit card authorization terminals, the data network is helping bypass the last-mile problem for low-bandwidth applications. At a rate of 40 paise (less than a penny) a minute and covering a large part of urban and semi-urban, this has to be on the cheapest and most widespread wireless data services globally. The challenge ahead lies in creating services which can leverage these kinds of networks.

Tomorrow: Outsourced Services

TECH TALK India Trends+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.