Asian countries to drive mobile internet growth

by Sohini Bagchi    Jul 29, 2013

mobile internet

The year 2013 will mark history as the internet users in the developing countries are expected to exceed those of the developed countries for the first time. Thanks to the mobile revolution which is already underway. With Smartphone market getting saturated in the developed countries in the US and Europe, the $2 trillion industry of telecom carriers, handset makers and content providers, are now taking a big leap at the emerging Asian markets, which they believe is the future hub of mobile internet growth.

A recent survey by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reveals that the sales of high-end devices in mature markets in the last few years have slowed down, and the focus is now on emerging markets where demand of budget devices and services are on the rise. Experts believe there is tremendous scope of growth of mobile internet in the emerging markets of Asia where in a scale of 100, currently less 23 are mobile Internet users, as against 67 in Europe and 48 in the Americas. The rate of growth in emerging countries was at 27 times since 2007, compared to the developed world’s fourfold growth, says ITU.

“The increased mobile internet usage driven by emerging Asian market is resulting in a “rebuilding of the internet,” says Karim Temsamani, head of Asia Pacific, Google, in a statement adding that in the current scenario, it’s not the technology, new platforms, or even social networks that are driving the change - it’s the people. “People coming to the internet now, and accessing for the first time from mobile devices, will demand a different internet to what we are seeing now. They will demand that we rebuild the internet from an entirely different foundation, he says, acknowledging a vast amount of this growth to come from India.

The increased mobile internet usage driven by emerging Asian market is resulting in a “rebuilding of the internet and it’s not the technology, new platforms, or even social networks that are driving the change - it’s the people
-Karim Temsamani, head of Asia Pacific, Google

Defining moment for india

One of the most vibrant markets in the Asia Pacific, India is expected to play a huge role in the region’s expansion of mobile internet. As Temsamani observes in 2012, India’s entire mobile traffic exceeded desktop traffic. “Desktop is just not going to matter in India, just the way that fax doesn’t matter to us anymore,” he says.Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) also sees a high growth in internet, driven by mobile. From a 87.1 million mobile internet users in 2012, India will have 165 million users accessing internet from mobile it says.  Much of this growth comes from the enterprise as users are constantly accessing information on the move. The youth population is also driving the mobile internet growth believe experts.

Email, social networking and messengers currently has high usage among mobile internet user. Looking ahead, growth for wearable computing devices, like glasses, connected wrist bands and watches – and the emergence of connected cars will also boost mobile internet.

Anu Madgavkar, senior fellow at McKinsey Global Institute and author of several report mentions that while traditional internet usage is low, mobile internet usage has been on the rise in India, including among the semi-urban and rural users who are increasingly using internet on smartphones or low-cost tablets.

She believes the need of the hour is the introduction of local content. Going forward, rural usage will be driven by factors like the speed with which 4G reaches semi-urban areas, and the development of apps relating to agriculture, government information, regional languages, and innovative voice- and graphic-based apps to lead to the mobile internet transformation.

Meanwhile, the mobile internet growth in India and  other emerging Asian countries is posing a challenge for existing players. Indian handset makers Micromax and Karbonn Mobile for example has overpowered global players such as Nokia and Sony in terms of sales in the January-April quarter this year. Samsung, until now has retained top position has slashed prices of some models in order to compete with the local brands. Experts see a heated mobile device and apps market, with players willing to offer products and services at a much cheaper rate  and this in turn will further boost the radiant mobile internet growth in the region.