Just how big is data for Indian telcos today?

Data has been the battleground in Indian telecom for some years now. The big-bang entry of Reliance Jio — which will charge only for data and offer voice calls for free — promises to take the tussle over data to a new level. But just how big is data for Indian telecom companies right now?

According to figures released by the telecom regulator, in the quarter ended March 2016, telecom companies whose services are based on the GSM technology (95% of Indian subscribers) earned average revenue per user (ARPU) of Rs 131. At 48.2%, voice calls made the largest contribution. Data usage was second, at 21.6%.

Seen through this prism, the Reliance Jio strategy aims to open two fronts to the competition simultaneously. On the one hand, by offering voice calls for free, it aims to attack the revenue component that fetches other telecom companies nearly half their revenues. On the other hand, by offering data cheap, it aims to increase the share of data in the overall telecom revenue pie while trying to wean away users from rival networks.

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