Bharti Airtel's mobile data users are expected to increase over 2.4 times to 129 million in the next three years, says a report.
At the end of December 2013, the company had 54 million data customers, global brokerage firm CLSA said in a report on Bharti Airtel.
India’s broadband penetration is only 2 per cent, while that of mobiles is a vast 72 per cent (893 million subscribers) and rising, it said.
"Bharti, the nation’s top mobile operator, is taking the lead in data ramp-up and, with the largest network and highest spectrum, we expect its mobile-data subscribers to jump 2.4x to 129 million by FY17," it added.
The report said that as the absence of last mile connectivity led to India skipping the fixed-line phase and moving to 893 million mobile phones over the past decade, the market is now set to leapfrog from PC-based fixed line Internet access and adopt mobile data.
It added that mobile data ramp-up along with an upturn in voice revenue per minute should drive a 5 per cent annual improvement in average revenue per user (ARPU) of Airtel.
"A threefold jump in data revenue will account for 50 per cent of Bharti’s incremental mobile revenue over FY14-17 CL (cumulative)," it said.
The report said India’s smartphone penetration of 12 per cent is still very low compared to other countries but the market is seeing an expanding range of affordable as well as high-end devices.
CLSA said that as per industry data, smartphone shipments in India have grown at 180 per cent year-on-year to 15.1 million during the October-December quarter, with one in every five phones sold being a smartphone.
"Leading mobile handset manufacturers are sensing this growth opportunity in the affordable smartphone market and have lined up multiple offerings in the USD 80-USD 300 price range," it added.
CLSA said mobile data should grow with rising smartphone penetration, a large target market and diverse data plans and falling tariffs cutting across economic, demographic and regional (urban versus rural) classes.
It said Airtel with 201 million subscribers, is well- poised to take the lead in the data ramp-up.
"The company is best placed with incumbency advantage and existing subscriber base," it said.