Bharti airtelHere’s some good news for the world going into 2016. According to Bloomberg, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India issued a statement shortly before year end declaring that India, as of October 2015, had passed the 1 billion threshold in the number of mobile phone subscribers, with 1.03 billion mobile subscribers. This puts India in the same league as China, which breached the 1 billion barrier in May-June 2012.

Almost concurrently, Indian Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced that the country was on track to reach 50 crore (500 million) registered internet users during 2016, one year ahead of the government’s previous target. Given the political dividend from such progress, the government’s statement might invite a dose of skepticism, but the mobile user numbers tend to bear it out.

TeleRead has already reported on a regular basis on the literacy and other benefits of mobile comms and internet access in India and the developing world in general. For one thing, previous reports forecast that smartphone adoption rates will drive ebooks to 25 percent of the subcontinental economy’s entire book market within three years. The latest mobile phone market growth numbers could see that figure go even higher. For another, under the current government’s “Digital India” program, authorities are pushing the “digital village” concept, where India’s rural population will receive e-education services, telemedicine, virtual classrooms and online service access, and LED lighting plus WiFi.

Commentators on the mobile comms market elsewhere, meanwhile, have claimed that “mobile phones are the greatest poverty-reducing tech EVER.” However extreme that claim is, India’s vast and still underserved rural population surely can only benefit from the push to bring them online.

For the rest of us, meanwhile, we now have two mobile nations whose wired populations are some three times that of the U.S. That surely is going to have a huge, unprecedented impact on developments in mobile communications, ebooks, and digital devices of all kinds. Eastward ho, folks.


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