New GSMA Study Highlights Role of Mobile in Delivering a Digital India

India Surpasses 500 Million Unique Mobile Subscribers; Mobile
Industry Accounts for 6.1 Per Cent of India’s GDP

NEW DELHI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–India is on track to surpass half a billion mobile subscribers by the
end of the year, according to a new GSMA study published today,
signaling the start of a new era for the country’s mobile economy. The
new report, ‘The Mobile Economy: India 2015’, finds that 13 per cent of
the world’s mobile subscribers reside in India and that subscriber
growth is forecast to outperform the regional and global averages over
the coming years as the country cements its position as the world’s
second-largest mobile market behind China. The study also highlights how
the Indian mobile industry is rapidly migrating to new mobile broadband
networks, services and devices, and becoming a key enabler of the
government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative aimed at providing broadband
connectivity to all.

“India is a unique mobile market and one where the mobile ecosystem is
playing a hugely influential role in transforming the lives of its
citizens, and driving economic growth,” said Alex Sinclair, Acting
Director General and Chief Technology Officer at the GSMA. “The market
is now rapidly migrating to mobile broadband technology, which is
providing a platform for India to transform into a digitally empowered
society and connect many millions of unconnected citizens to the
internet over the coming years.”

Headroom for Growth and a Growing Contributor to the Indian Economy

India had 453 million unique mobile subscribers at the end of 2014. It
is forecast to surpass 500 million by the end of this year and add a
further 250 million subscribers by 2020 to reach 734 million, accounting
for almost half of all the subscriber growth expected in the Asia
Pacific region over this period. This strong growth is linked to India’s
relatively low mobile subscriber penetration rate, which stood at 36 per
cent of the population at the end of 2014, compared to a 50 per cent
global average. The subscriber penetration rate in India is forecast to
reach 54 per cent by 2020 as many millions more are connected by mobile.

Although India only launched 3G services in 2009 and 4G deployments are
at an early stage, the move to mobile broadband networks is set to
gather pace over the coming years. Mobile broadband networks (3G/4G)
accounted for only 11 per cent of Indian mobile connections1
in 2014, but are expected to make up 42 per cent of the total by 2020.
In a little over five years since the launch of the first commercial 3G
networks, Indian mobile operators have extended 3G network coverage to
three-quarters of the population.

One factor driving the migration to mobile broadband networks is the
increasing adoption of smartphones, which has been fuelled by a raft of
low-cost smartphones from both international vendors and, increasingly,
via a homegrown smartphone manufacturing ecosystem. Several
international device vendors have set up manufacturing facilities in
India, supporting the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative aimed at
boosting local manufacturing. More than half a billion new smartphones
connections2 are expected in India between 2015 and 2020,
bringing the total to 690 million, up from 149 million in 2014.

India’s mobile industry is also a key driver of economic growth and job
creation. The industry made a total contribution of INR7.7 lakh crore
(US$116 billion) to the Indian economy in 2014, equivalent to 6.1 per
cent of India’s total GDP3. This contribution is forecast to
almost double to INR14 lakh crore by 2020, which would represent 8.2 per
cent of projected GDP by that point. The industry directly and
indirectly supported 4 million in jobs in the Indian economy in 2014, a
figure predicted to rise to 5 million by 2020. It also makes a highly
significant contribution to the funding of the Indian public sector,
contributing approximately INR1.1 lakh crore (US$16 billion) in 2014 in
the form of taxation and spectrum auction payments.

Mobile Internet Key to Delivering a Digital India

India’s mobile industry is playing a key enabling role in the Digital
India initiative, launched in July 2015, which aims to transform India
into a digitally empowered society and provide broadband connectivity to
all. Due to the relative lack of fixed-line infrastructure in the
country, mobile is already the dominant platform for internet access.
The number of individuals accessing the internet over mobile devices has
grown from less than 100 million subscribers in 2010 to nearly 300
million at the end of 2014.

However, network coverage and digital literacy remain key barriers to
further extending mobile internet access, as many of India’s unconnected
communities reside in rural or remote areas. The report outlines a
number of strategies that will help close this ‘digital divide’ and
support the cost-effective deployment of mobile broadband across the
country. These include an increase in the availability of harmonised
spectrum at a reasonable price, as well as a reduction in
mobile-specific taxation that will serve to make mobile broadband more
affordable for consumers and maximise the ability of mobile operators to
invest in their networks. The report also highlights the need to adapt
regulatory frameworks to reflect the new market dynamics that have
brought changes to traditional mobile communication services.

“The Digital India programme is a unique opportunity for India’s
government and mobile industry to work together on a common agenda to
transform the country into a digitally powered society and economy,”
added Sinclair. “Ensuring high-quality, widely available and affordable
mobile broadband will be critical to delivering this ambitious vision,
which will require a regulatory framework and approach to spectrum that
encourages investment and innovation.”

To access the full report and related infographics please visit:


About the GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting
nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile
ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies,
equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in
adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading
events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai and
the Mobile 360 Series conferences.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at
Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

1 Total mobile connections (active SIM cards, excluding M2M)
in India stood at 944 million at the end of 2014, forecast to rise to
1.3 billion by 2020. A unique mobile subscriber can account for multiple
mobile connections (SIM cards).

2 A smartphone connection is defined as a SIM card registered
and used in a smartphone device. It does not represent the number of
smartphone devices sold or shipped.

3 GDP contribution includes direct and indirect contribution
from mobile operators (1.0%); related players e.g. device manufacturers
and infrastructure vendors (1.0%); indirect economic impact (0.4%); and
productivity improvements (3.7%).


Charlie Meredith-Hardy
+44 7917 298428
+91 9810074079
Press Office