More Indians surf the Web via mobiles than desktops

by Sharon Lobo    Sep 04, 2012

Mobile usage IndiaSince the last few months Indian telcos have been running numerous campaigns promoting their numerous inexpensive mobile Internet plans, with Airtel being the latest to join the bandwagon with its “Jo mera hai woh tera” campaign. So it is not surprising that India’s fast growing mobile Internet usage has actually surpassed the country’s use of the fixed-line Web.

According to Internet measurement firm –StatCounter data, during August 2012, Web usage in India via mobile accounted for 51.63%, while from desktop devices made up the remaining 48.37%.

One of the key reasons for the phenomenal growth of mobile Internet usage is the low overhead involved in owning a mobile than a computing device. A few years ago a national daily had reported about an Indian village that had mobile network coverage but no electricity, and mobile users had to travel for kilometres to a nearby town to recharge their phones. Sadly, this still holds true as the majority of the country still grapples under erratic electricity supply. Therefore, it’s not surprising that majority of the country’s population prefer accessing the Web via mobile phones.

What has further fuelled the growth of mobile Internet usage is the plethora of affordable mobile phones coupled with cheap Internet plans, which can be as cheap as Rs. 149 for 8GB/mth. Also device agnostic web browsers such as Opera Mini bring out the best Web surfing experience even on a basic GPRS-enabled phone.

The growing smartphone market has too significantly contributed to this trend, however India’s smartphone penetration continues to be low even in APAC region. According to IDC’s latest survey of Top 5 markets for smartphone shipments, which includes China, U.S., India, Brazil and the United Kingdom, India is poised to stand fourth at 2.5% in this year’s ranking. However, the report further indicated that the Indian market seems to have great potential for future with the introduction of low end smartphones priced around $100.

While India’s mobile Internet usage surpassing that desktop Web access, gives a reason to cheer, it should be kept in mind that despite of a population in over 1.2 billion, India’s Internet penetration rate continues to remain below 10%. And reasons for this digital divide are primarily lack of awareness of the benefits of Internet-enabled devices and such devices remain unaffordable to a majority of the population.

The StatCounter figures used in this story are based on data compiled from over 15 billion page views, so though this figures might not be accurate it does show the growing trend of mobile Internet usage. Additionally, it is noteworthy to mention that Indian telcos, in spite of the regulatory and infrastructure hurdles, have a done a commendable job in providing connectivity in every corner of the country. Yes, there is still a long way to go before India’s Internet penetration rate can match that of other developed nations or even China’s, but we can be rest assured we are moving in the right direction.