India’s 3G, 4G customers to expand to 300 mn by March 2018: Report

New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) India’s 3G and 4G subscribers have tripled to 120 million in 24 months but as affordability increases, the market will expand to 300 million by March 2018, a recent report by independent brokerage and investment group CLSA said here.

“As affordability for 3G and 4G data increases, fuelling data usage and spends, the addressable market will expand to 300 million subscribers by March 2018. India’s 3G and 4G subscribers have tripled to 120 million in 24 months. Yet, current data tariffs limit usage, restricting the market for 3G and 4G to high average revenue per unit (ARPU) subscribers,” the report said.

These 300 million subscribers will account for 60 percent of sector revenues. Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, the only operators with pan-India 4G spectrum in 2,300 MHz, will lead this opportunity.

“With 3G and 4G subscribers in India tripling over the past two years to 120 million, adoption of mobile broadband is picking up. In our view, mass adoption of 3G and 4G is dependent on smartphone penetration, network speeds, availability of relevant content and data pricing.

“We expect total smartphone population to rise from 220 million at present to 350 million by March 2018, of which 210 million will be 4G, thus smartphone penetration is unlikely to be a constraint,” it said.

The report said network speeds too are on the rise led by aggressive 3G and 4G rollouts by operators, and availability of relevant content is multiplying, thus mass adoption of 3G and 4G services appears mainly constrained by current data pricing.

On how 4G spectrum holdings would alter the shift of high value subscribers, business research firm Bernstein said Bharti Airtel has strengthened its position for extra spectrum in 14 circles.

“Bharti is well positioned; Vodafone and Idea are not. We expect Idea will need to spend between Rs.40 billion and Rs.120 billion this summer to close the gaps. Vodafone is likely to spend up to Rs.160 billion.

“Bharti and Jio have the luxury of not needing spectrum. They can bid selectively this year and afford to sit out entirely. We believe both have their eye on the more attractive 700MHz band and are hoping it is re-auctioned next year at a lower reserve,” the report cited them as saying.

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