India’s 4G subscriber base surpassed 700 million with 100 million new additions in the 2020 calendar year, Finnish telecom gear maker Nokia revealed in its latest study. The rapid growth in 4G subscriber base led to a 36% year-on-year increase in data traffic and 4G technology alone constituted nearly 99% of the total data traffic consumed across the country.
The data traffic in India grew over 60 times over the last five years which is amongst the highest globally, a Nokia India report revealed.
“In the last five years, we have grown 63 times in terms of data growth that has happened. It is phenomenal. It is a record. I don’t think any country, any region, any market can beat this record of how data has been consumed in the last five years,” Nokia chief marketing officer Amit Marwah told Indian media on Thursday.
Nokia said that overall average data usage per month registered a CAGR of 76% from 2015-2020.
The average monthly data usage per user in India reached 13.5 GB in December 2020, growing over 20% annually driven by increased data subscribers and mobile video consumption. Nokia said that new users from rural areas also contributed to the rising monthly data usage.
Mobile emerged as the primary source of entertainment and productivity with an average Indian spending around 5 hours daily on a smartphone, one of the highest averages globally.
In 2020, short video format emerged as the fastest-growing content category due to the rise of various TikTok clone applications.
With surging internet users, total time spent monthly on short content is expected to grow four times by 2020, Nokia said in its study.
As per Nokia’s findings, India’s fixed broadband segment is expected to play a key role in driving data demand with revenues from the segment likely to grow 1.5 times by 2025. India had just 4 million fixed broadband subscribers in India, which is expected to reach 10 million by 2024 driven by Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel’s aggressive expansion plans.
In India, just 32% of telecom towers are connected using fiber. Nokia said that this would increase to 70% by 2025 as Indian telecom operators focus on modernising their networks for 5G technology.
“With only 22 million fixed broadband subscribers, there is a significant growth opportunity for this segment. As India prepares to launch 5G amidst COVID-19, fixed broadband accessibility through Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and FTTx will help generate a new revenue stream for operators,” Marwah said
Marwah also revealed that Indian telecom operators had 2 million active 5G smartphones up to December 2020, and the number is expected to grow significantly with affordable 5G offerings by handset brands.
4G capable device penetration reached 77% at a pan-India level in 2020 as the number of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) smartphones grew to 563 million. Nokia findings revealed that about 100 million subscribers having LTE capable smartphones are still using 2G/3G services.
Nokia said there are around 300 million feature phone users in India and Indian telecom operators will continue to support these users through their 2G services. Marwah said that shutting down 2G will be purely a “business call” for telecom operators.
Despite no 5G, mobile broadband penetration covered 63% of the Indian population. However, the fixed broadband penetration reached only 7.5% of households.
Sanjay Malik, Senior Vice President & Head of India Market, Nokia separately said that 5G has a huge potential for value creation in India as the pace of digitization is accelerating.
“The phenomenal growth in data consumption in India will drive demand for enhanced broadband and fixed capacity. Industry 4.0 with various IoT and enterprise use-cases, immersive applications experience (AR/VR), smart home, factory and public safety use cases will spur LTE, 5G growth and data usage further,” Malik added.
The Indian government is planning to allow commercial 5G trials in 2-3 months. The country’s telecom department (DoT) has already received 16 applications for 5G field trials using imported and indigenous technology.
Both Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have claimed that their networks are 5G ready and they can launch the high-speed services using spectrum which they are currently using for 4G services.
However, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have already said they won’t buy 5G spectrum at the recommended base price. They urged India to lower the reserve price for 5G spectrum so that they could invest in networks and price the services affordably.