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Mobile fast becoming the new normal

Low rates, new functions meet consumers where they live

The number of mobile internet users in India reached 549 million in December 2018, according to estimates by Kantar and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

For the year ending in December 2018, estimated mobile internet use rose 9 percent in urban India and 38 percent in rural India.

Some four years after Jio entered the market promising free calls and rock-bottom data rates, the spread of mobile phones has been aided by the persistently low price of data. Although Jio’s plans have since adjusted slightly upward in price, consumers continue to benefit from competition to offer the lowest rates. Monthly household spending on voice and data remains affordably low.  

Those Indians who cannot afford full smartphones, especially in rural areas, have been well-served in the past year by the proliferation of “smart featurephones”: inexpensive, data-enabled handsets that come pre-loaded with a number of basic messaging and social media apps. They are less well-equipped for streaming media and gaming, which have remained a major and growing attraction of more full-featured handsets.

Mobile internet penetration has also enabled greater take-up of the government-sponsored Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which has grown tenfold in transaction volume over the past year, and now rivals credit and debit cards for popularity. New FinTech applications building on the UPI should continue to fuel the growth in transit apps like Uber and Ola, as well as delivery apps like Zomato, Flipkart, and Swiggy, which have expanded the importance of services in the e-commerce landscape.