In just six years mobile data usage per subscriber in India jumped by around 43 times and cost declined by 96%. Data usage per subscriber in 2014 was 3.2GB while customers paid Rs 269 per GB, and in 2020, the cost dipped to Rs 10.9/GB. Data usage increased to 141 GB/user. However, not all data is used for browsing the internet.
According to latest data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), data usage per subscriber in 2020 was 20% more compared to 2019 as most regular office-goers, school children and even some sections of the healthcare and several other sectors worked remotely. As such, the cost of data decreased further by nearly 2% to Rs 10.9 from Rs 11.1 in the previous year.
TRAI attributes the massive data demand to 4G, which brought about a technological revolution. The regulator told ToI 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) SP Kochhar, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India, told ToI that the COVID-19 pandemic has surely contributed to the 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.”
Kochhar explained that 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,” he said.