India to overtake US to become second largest population of Web users

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India will overtake the United States to become the second largest population of Web users, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The figures, released by an Indian trade group suggest there will be 402 million internet users in India by December of this year. That’s nearly 150 million more than the United States, according to Internet Live Stats. That begs the question of the timing of the news as statistics suggest India overtook America a while ago. But it does offer some insight into how the world’s biggest tech companies have started to shift their focus on to the sub-continent.

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Historically India’s Web population has been hampered by low desktop ownership and its ad-hoc broadband infrastructure. But thanks to an explosion in cheap smartphones – with many companies offering entry-level devices for as little as $100 – hundreds of millions of users have been able to use the Web for the first time.

Another big boon for India’s internet users is data costs. According to the authors of the report, data packages are sold for as little as $0.17 for 30MB. When you compare that to the US, the average phone plan with 500MB of data costs $85 according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The result is 94 percent of Web users in India calling their cellphone the primary means of getting online, making it one of the world’s first large-scale mobile centric Web populations. But India’s Web user growth is just getting started.

According to the World Bank, internet penetration remains at just 30 percent in India, compared with approximately half in China and 87 percent in the US.

That means startups and established players in the Indian ecosystem like Flipkart and Snapdeal have an advantage over their competition in that their user base in India is all but guaranteed to grow.

With Web usage remaining largely flat in the US and Facebook and Google trying to muscle in on the service provider game and Microsoft flogging as many cheap smartphones as it can expect more of America’s unicorns to follow.

India to Become World’s Second-Largest Internet User Base [Wall Street Journal]

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