The big story of the past few years has been the incredible rise in the mobile user base in India. Growth now in terms of new user additions is the fastest in the world. And there are plenty of new consumers still waiting to be tapped. 2007 will see the mobile user base cross 200 million.
I think the real story of 2007 will not be so much in the rising mobile base as the rise in mobile data services. India has the potential to lead in mobile data usage. Given that PC-based Internet growth has been slow (even though that is now changing), the mobile Internet offers a great opportunity for service providers in India.
Mobile phones now come with enough bells and whistles to be thought of as handheld networked multimedia computers. India has excellent mobile data networks on both the GSM and CDMA platforms. (On a recent train journey I took from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, the data connectivity on Hutch was almost continuous. Even in semi-urban areas, GPRS is available and offers very good speeds.) In fact, given that the focus for the operators is on new subscriber acquisition, the mobile data networks potential has been largely untapped.
Mobile phones with WiFi are already available for less than Rs 18,000 ($400). By the end of the year, these price points will fall by at least a third. Get a wireless access point at home and combine with a broadband connection, and suddenly, the mobile can now access data networks bypassing the operator and data charges. This will create the opportunity for an increasing array of data services.
Mobiles are the primary, and in many cases, the only network device that people have access to. In this context, there is a need to re-create the Internet for mobiles. What kind of services will people want? Given that the device is with them 24×7, what kind of interaction patterns will emerge? The mobile Internet is not about taking the existing desktop-based Internet and trying to compress it onto a small screen. Instead, it means thinking afresh on what people would want to do and then making those services available.
My belief is that the successful mobile data services will be focused around the N3 Web now, new, and near. It is the incremental web which will be the driver for the mobile. As part of this, it will be more subscription-driven rather than search-initiated. If one stops thinking of the mobile as a poor mans computer and instead thinks of it as a new interactive device, then the potential of what is possible starts to become apparent. 2007 will see the emergence of such innovative data services in India.
Tomorrow: Home Computing
TECH TALK 2007 Tech Trends+T