Mobile data revenue in India will nearly triple by 2018, to US $14 billion, according to a report. The growth will mainly be driven by Bharti Airtel’s expanding 4G/LTE services, as well as the upcoming launches of 4G by Reliance Jio, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. Over the past nine months, 4G handset shipments jumped from 1 million to 5.5 million, so that now one of every four smartphones shipped is 4G-enabled. Shipments of non-4G smartphones dropped from 20 million in the third quarter of 2015 to 18.9 million in the first quarter of 2016. Smartphones are expected to account for 70 percent of India’s overall handset sales by 2018, up from from the current 45 percent.
Growing 4G networks, spearheaded by India’s principal MNOs, and the proliferation of affordable smartphones have not only created data hunger among India’s customers, they are providing the means of satisfying that hunger. The result is very rapid revenue growth from data consumption, and the beneficiaries are the operators. India’s example shows how infrastructure investment can make a developing market truly develop.