As it inched closer to the 100- crore subscriber base, telecom industry identified mobile internet data as the next big thing for revenue generation even as consumers were burdened with up to 100 per cent rise in charges for such services in 2014.
Towards the end of the year, Airtel announced plans to charge extra for internet calls through VOIP applications like Skype and Viber, but had to abandon the idea after a public outrage. As more telecom players firm up plans for charging on such services, the sectoral regulator TRAI, which has power to control tariffs, may soon come out with regulations for messaging and calling applications.
During 2014, telecom operators gained heavily from rise in mobile internet usage which was driven by applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype and consumer adopted them as these applications reduced their phone bill.
"In year 2014, operators saw a healthy increase in subscriber revenue on back of nearly 100 per cent growth in data revenues and very favourable take-up of OTT (over-the-top) applications like WhatsApp, Facebook etc," PwC Leader Telecom Arpita P Agarwal said.
Airtel in July-September 2014 period reported 94.6 per cent increase in mobile data traffic over previous year accounting for 11.1 per cent of its total revenue.
Idea Cellular reported over 125 per cent jump in mobile data in same period.
Vodafone reported data revenue of Rs 2,552.5 crore in the first half of 2014-15 and it now contributes 13.5 per cent to the company's service revenue. "Data will continue to drive growth in revenue and we expect to stay focused on our data penetration.
As and when the market matures, we will make necessary investments to stay relevant to mass market customer's needs," Uninor CEO Vivek Sood said. Uninor's 20 per cent customers have subscribed to its mobile internet services.
GlobalWebIndex (GWI), in survey of the Asia Pacific region including India, found that 45 per cent users of such applications use them because messaging is free on them.
Top mobile messaging apps in India include WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger,