Ovum: India’s mobile market surpasses 1 billion subscriptions

London, 11 February, 2016 – Towards the end of 2015, India reached 1 billion mobile subscriptions, joining its northerly neighbor China by becoming only the second member of the 1 billion club, according to global analyst firm Ovum.

In a new forecast report* produced by Ovum, it was found that comparisons were inevitable, though China reached this milestone almost three years ago.  Like India today, China was then at 80% subscription penetration with 10% of its subscriber base on 3G.  However, wealthier Chinese consumers have supported steeper overall and MBB growth rates (of the order of around 100% and 50% more, respectively), higher data ARPUs (by 25%), and higher unique user penetration.

According to Charles Moon, Practice Leader Asia at Ovum, “Comparatively, India’s growth trajectory is farther along than China’s at the time and will remain flatter, meaning India is unlikely to catch up.”

Figure 1:  India vs. China overall and mobile broadband subscriptions

Source:  Ovum; Year X denotes December 2015 for India, September 2012 for China

Nevertheless, India’s MBB curve is still steep and, as our forecasts show, will pass the 500 million mark by 2018 (Year X+3), accounting for just under half of all subscriptions.  Growth will be driven by continued declines in 3G and 4G smartphone prices, creative and cheap data plans, and continued proliferation of apps and data services appealing to a broad range of consumer segments. “This is no different from most markets; however, Indian operators may have more difficulty extracting profits from customers as they have the added challenges of extreme consumer price sensitivities coupled with a very crowded competitor field,” concludes Moon.