India will have almost one billion unique mobile subscribers by 2020 and already now is the worlds second largest smartphone market, overtaking the US in first half of 2016 with an installed base of 275 million devices, a GSMA study revealed on Wednesday.
According to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association's 'The Mobile Economy: India 2016' report, at the end of June 2016, 616 million unique users had subscribed to mobile services in India.
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India is also seeing an ongoing technology shift to mobile broadband services and the number of 3G/4G mobile broadband connections is forecast to reach more than 670 million by 2020, 48 per cent of the total connection base.
"With this report, all signs point to a period of tremendous growth for India's mobile economy, which will strongly support and enable the government's 'Digital India' initiative aimed at providing broadband connectivity to all," Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA, told reporters here.
The number of 4G connections is forecast to grow rapidly, growing from just three million at the end of 2015 to 280 million by 2020.
In addition, the industry is set to invest heavily, with operator CAPEX growing to $34 billion (Rs 2.3 lakh crore) for the period 2016 to 2020, the report noted.
In 2015, the country's mobile industry generated economic value equivalent to 6.5 per cent of the country's GDP, a contribution that amounts to more than $140 billion (Rs nine lakh crore).
The figure accounts for both the direct economic activity generated by mobile operators and the ecosystem of mobile industries in the country.
This contribution is expected to grow to $210 billion (Rs 14 lakh crore) by 2020, the findings showed.
As of mid-2016, around 430 million people had access to mobile internet services, that will increase to almost 670 million by 2020, or about half the population.
This still lags the regional average of 63 per cent penetration and the survey found that lack of awareness and locally relevant content are the biggest barriers to internet usage.
"GSMA research showed that South Asia has the highest gender gap globally in mobile phone ownership and that women in India are estimated to be 36 per cent less likely to own a mobile than men, translating into an estimated 114 million fewer women who are benefiting from mobile services," Granryd noted.
Aircel, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have made a commitment to increase the number of women accessing mobile internet services, with additional commitment from Vodafone to grow its base of female mobile money customers.
Through the "Connected Women Commitment Initiative", operators are working to increase the proportion of their female customers, supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5 which focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.