India's 3G subscriber base has zipped past fixed broadband users, with the wireless technology shaping up to be the key to finally breaking the nation's access barriers.
Research firm TeleGeography estimates that India's 3G customer base skyrocketed 400% during the year ending in March to 12.2 million, despite only being widely available for a few months.
By comparison, only 11.5 million Indians are signed on for a fixed broadband service, despite such services being available since 2003.
TeleGeography analyst Richard Faber said 3G is “helping to break India’s persistent broadband bottleneck,” and has probably already cemented itself as the nation's primary means of broadband access for years to come.
Growth has only been accelerating as more operators launch services, with 3G subscribers increasing 73% in the first quarter of the year.
Due to repeated 3G auction delays, Indian operators have only recently introduced 3G in select markets. Tata DoCoMo, for example, launched in November last year, Reliance went live in December, and incumbent Bharti Airtel launched in January.
Fixed broadband has long been struggling to find a foothold in India – TeleGeography estimates that penetration remains at less than 5% of households – so it was inevitable that 3G would supplant it. But the speed at which this has happened is impressive.