India's 4G and 3G user base to surpass 300M by March 2018, market research shows
India's 4G and 3G user base to surpass 300M by March 2018, market research showsReuters

India's 4G and 3G user base will touch 300 million by March 2018, according to a market research undertaken by the investment group, Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia (CLSA). The report adds that the smartphone population in India is expected to reach 350 million by March 2018, 210 million of which will be 4G.

The estimate underscores the phenomenal increase in the country's smartphone penetration in recent months, and the expansion witnessed in high-speed internet coverage in the country.

IANS cited the CLSA report in saying that the 3G and 4G subscribers in India have tripled to 120 million in the last two years and that affordability will be the key for its future growth. The competition in the smartphone market has also waged a price war and consumers are benefitting the outcome of low-priced mobile devices, most of which have premium features such as 4G LTE bands and more.

"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," CLSA said in its report. "Yet, current data tariffs limit usage, restricting the market for 3G and 4G to high average revenue per unit (ARPU) subscribers."

India's internet connectivity coverage is not widespread despite rapid adoption of smartphones. India is ranked second after China in the world's largest smartphone market ranking. But the expensive data tariffs and lacks of reliable networks in rural areas are some of the key challenges slowing India's high-speed internet adoption.

Amidst a flurry of service providers in the country, only Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have pan-India 4G spectrum in 2,300MHZ, which will help them lead the pack. Reliance Jio's commercial launch is still a mystery as the company has given a vague timeline of the second half of this year for launching the services. The company's chief product and innovation officer Rainer Deutschmann told IANS that the Jio 4G service will fend off rivals on quality standards instead of price.

Vodafone and Idea still have some gaps to fill in the 4G coverage nationwide. According to Bernstein research firm, Idea is required to spend Rs. 40 billion to 120 billion this summer and Vodafone is likely to spend up to 160 billion to close the gaps, IANS report added.