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Mobile Telephony: Numbers Speak, and Data Rules

If Indian telecom subscribers were once known to be voice hungry, today they have got an insatiable appetite to consume data and going by the trends, this is going to rise in the days to come. Consider the statistics: Of the total around 1.13 billion mobile subscribers, around 300 million are users of smartphones who can be categorised as big data consumers. In the last one year, when the shift towards data happened with the entry of Reliance Jio in the market, the average time spent by a consumer on their mobile device on a daily basis has jumped to 240 minutes from 190 minutes. This means around four hours in a day an individual spends on mobile phones. Not surprising, considering that in the last 18 months data prices have crashed by around 90%.

If the time spent is so substantial, obviously it will show in the data consumed. Today on average 7-10 GB of data is consumed per month by consumers, which till a year back was only 800-900 MB. Most mobile operators today provide bundled voice and data packs where voice is free and there’s a charge for data. The bulk of the users are in the monthly Rs 399-499 tariff packs which offer 1 GB data a day and if one exhausts that limit the speed gets slower for the remaining part of the day. Roughly 20-30% subscribers reach their daily data limit every day.
If the data consumed has grown so exponentially, it is obvious that it is not being used only to chat on WhatsApp. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data show that app voice calling, which was in vogue a year ago, is now on the decline.

This means consumers are mostly hooked on to video using the mobile data at their disposal. Roughly 76% of consumers use mobile data to watch videos. Interestingly, it is subscribers from small towns and rural areas who are the biggest consumers of video.

Within video, YouTube is the most widely watched channel with some reports suggesting that around 58% of consumers watch this. The second spot is occupied by Hotstar at 38%.

These are times when mobile operators have apps for music, TV and cinema. If one goes by downloads, then Jio has a clear lead with Jio TV at 100 million downloads on the Android store and Jio Cinema at 50 million. Bharti comes next with Airtel TV having 50 million downloads and Wynk Music 85 million. Currently, both Jio and Bharti are aggregators of content and the content offered by either is not exclusive, meaning they can be used by other operators as well. However, Jio’s long-term focus is on developing customised, exclusive content whereas Bharti’s focus is on partnerships. However, over time it may also look at some customised content. It is this differing strategy which has led Jio to acquire stakes in content companies like Balaji, Eros and music streaming company Saavn. Bharti has not acquired stakes in any company but has developed its own music and movie app Wynk.

Despite data usage on the rise to watch videos cord-cutting — removing a TV cable connection — has still not happened in the country. This, analysts believe, is because average monthly cable bill is till on the lower side at Rs 200-400. However, mobile data speeds rising further increases the risk that cord-cutting cannot be ruled out. – Financial Express

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