Despite the high hopes for growth in Indian mobile data, 3G will see slow adoption in the early stages, as in most new markets.
According to new research by Nielsen, only 20% of urban mobile subscribers in the country will sign up for 3G in the first couple of years, and it will be eight to 10 years before a majority of users is on 3G.
Nevertheless, lead cellco Bharti Airtel believes 3G data services will quickly boost the low ARPUs of Indian carriers and bring them into line with more developed mobile economies.
The reasons for slow adoption of 3G will not include lack of awareness. The Nielsen study found that almost 70% of urban mobile users are already aware of 3G services, even though none had gone live until this month, and 63% were familiar with what 3G should deliver.
“While service providers have succeeded in popularizing the concept of 3G and articulating its promises, clearly consumers seem tentative to embrace the technology,” said Arjun Urs, director of client solutions for India at Nielsen.
Unsurprisingly, those who are enthusiastic are the working professionals and “internet savvy youth,” but even in these groups, only 36% say they are likely to adopt 3G in the short term, though these would be ready to change carriers to obtain the new services.