According to a recent study by GSMA's Wireless Intelligence service, mobile growth in India is being largely driven by more affluent communities in cities despite a large rural population. Net additions in urban areas reached 85 million last year compared to 57 million in rural areas, with mobile penetration increasing by 20 percentage points in urban areas to 161 per cent, against a 6.5 percentage point rise in rural areas to 36.6 per cent.
The provision of mobile broadband in rural and remote areas will help India bridge the so-called "digital divide". It will improve productivity, help overcome the constraints of transport infrastructure and provide much needed services such as banking, health and education. Given the significant social and economic benefits, expanding affordable access to mobile broadband should be a high priority of the Indian government.
According to Wireless Intelligence, with an average retail price of $500, the cost of an LTE Smartphone is four times the average monthly GDP per capita in India, and at an average of $200, the retail price of an LTE USB dongle is twice an Indian’s monthly income on average. As LTE networks proliferate worldwide and more devices become available, costs will come down.
Initiatives like the introduction of the low cost Aakash tablet in India are helping spur widespread access to the Internet in emerging markets, but more can be done.