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Utility-based mobile services see strong growth in India

India's Telecom Commission has endorsed plans to allow 100 per cent FDI in mobile operators

End-user service revenues from mobile data and VAS (value-added services) in India will grow from $3.9bn in 2011 to $15.9bn in 2016, according to research released this week by Informa Telecoms & Media. Mobile operators, content providers and technology vendors for mobile services have realized that they need to look beyond mobile entertainment services to grow their revenues and there is a visible shift towards using mobile to offer utility services such as mobile banking and payments, m-health, m-education, and m-governance. It is expected that the share of revenues generated by mobile utility services will increase from just four per cent of the total in 2011 to 18 per cent in 2016.

“Government-led initiatives will be crucial to drive the adoption of mobile utility services in India, particularly among the poor and people living in rural parts of the country. The services need to be priced at very reasonable rates, and the government should provide subsidies, keeping in mind the social and economic development driven by such services”, said Shailendra Pandey, Senior Analyst at Informa and author of ‘Outlook for Mobile VAS in India’.

Vodafone India last week launched “Ask a doctor” an m-health service that allows users to clarify health-related questions with doctors using their mobile phone. Several other organizations, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Apollo Hospitals, Maestros Mediline Systems, Religare Technologies, BioQuest Solutions andmDhil, and mobile operators Aircel and Bharti Airtel have also introduced m-health services. These services are being increasingly deployed in India and the focus of the mobile VAS market is gradually moving away from so-called “ABC” (astrology, Bollywood, and cricket) content and towards utility services including m-commerce, m-governance, m-health and m-education.

Spice Telecom, Deltics, Tata DoCoMo, EnableM and GCube Solutions are some of the players working to deploy m-education services that can provide learning and training to users, particularly those who are poor and live in rural India. For example, the “mGurujee” service allows students to use their mobile phones to access information on subjects including engineering, management, civil services and medicine, and tutorials to improve their vocabulary and general knowledge.

India’s central and state governments are also slowly recognizing the advantages of using mobile to drive awareness among the population about their initiatives and to generate greater responses and participation for their schemes. The state of Kerala has implemented several m-governance schemes and these services are also complementing the government’s existing e-governance initiatives.

Informa believes that deploying VAS to drive social and economic development and improve the standard of life, particularly of the poor population, will become a key focus for the mobile operators and other mobile VAS value-chain players in India over the coming years. However, the growth of India’s mobile VAS market will depend on how much the government and regulatory authorities can learn from international success stories and how well they devise policies to provide direction and vision to the industry and create confidence among the country’s mobile VAS ecosystem players.

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