JUNE 5, 2021
NEW DELHI, INDIA: Data usage per subscriber in India has jumped by around 43 times in just six years while data cost decreased by 96% (by 24 times) compared to 2014.
In 2014, data usage per subscriber in India was 3.2GB while customers paid Rs 269 per GB. The cost dipped to just Rs 10.9/GB in 2020, while data usage jumped to 141 GB/user — but not all data used is for surfing the internet.
Data usage per subscriber in 2020 was 20% more compared to 2019 as most regular office-goers, schoolchildren and even some sections of the healthcare and several other sectors worked remotely. The cost of data decreased further by nearly 2% to Rs 10.9 from Rs 11.1 in the previous year, as per the latest data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
Data cost (to customer) in India is one of the cheapest in the world, TRAI said, juxtaposing costs in the US (Rs 531/GB) and the UK (Rs 286/GB). The global average was put at Rs 366/GB.
As first reported by TOI, the number of internet connections in India breached a significant milestone of 75 crore in 2020, twenty-five years after the internet was first thrown open to people. Most connections are in urban areas and availed through wireless devices.
Among other things, TRAI attributes the massive data boom to ‘4G’ which brought about a technological revolution. The regulator said that with 4G LTE, consumers are getting uninterrupted connectivity with amazing data speed, easy accessibility of internet at lower cost and better voice quality, making features like streaming media, video calling, etc, a reality.
Lt Gen (retd) S P Kochhar, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), told TOI: “Covid surely has contributed to increase in data usage in 2020. Overall, one needs to understand that compared to 2014, now we have voice over data. This, enabled by the technological advancements of 3G and 4G LTE, has enabled economies of scale which allow low pricing.”
What this means is that earlier, the data subscribed by a user was used purely for surfing while voice calls happened through a dedicated (radio frequency) channel established for the call. The primary revenue for operators was voice call. And since data subscription was low, the cost too was high.
“Now, the calls we make use data, which has made data the primary source of revenue enabling lower cost, given economies of scale. Technology, some amount of regulation and the approach of operators who have understood that they cannot penetrate with high costs are other reasons,” Kochhar explained.