Mobile Communications, the Internet and Digital India: A Developing Country Approach

Posted: 9 Mar 2018

See all articles by Prabir K. Neogi

Prabir K. Neogi

Carleton University

Rekha Jain

IIMA-IDEA Telecom Centre of Excellence, IIMA

Date Written: March 8, 2018


The intelligent mobile phone has become the most widely used communications device in the world and the access device of choice in the developing world. In countries like India, which has become the second largest mobile phone market in the world, it is often the only available device for accessing the Internet and its large variety of associated services. This paper will focus on the impacts of the widespread penetration and use of intelligent mobile access devices in India, combined with the deployment of mobile broadband networks. Issues discussed include:

• In a developing country like India, what role does mobile broadband play in its national broadband strategy?

• How can mobile broadband be used to narrow the stark urban-rural infrastructure gap, by providing ubiquitous “last mile” access?

• In addition to efficiently allocating and managing the use of the spectrum, what other roles can governments and regulators play in enabling the continued growth of mobile communications services?

• What strategies have developing countries like India adopted in facilitating the national deployment of broadband mobile communications infrastructure or wholesale networks? Do Public Private Partnerships have a role to play?

• What role can mobile broadband play in the delivery and use of a wide variety of digital information and transactional services, including electronic payments? How can mobile broadband services compensate for deficiencies in the physical infrastructure for banking services, rural healthcare and public information?

• How can the Central and State governments facilitate the demand side of the transformative Digital India initiative by becoming Model Users of online information and transactional services, particularly services which affect small businesses, consumers and citizens?

In India, mobile subscribers constitute some 98% of the 1.2 billion total telephone subscribers. Urban Tele-density is 3 times greater than Rural Tele-density, and Urban Internet subscribers per 100 populationare some 5 times greater than Rural. The deployment of mobile broadband networks is limited, especially outside urban areas. Some 60% of mobile users only have a feature phone, such numbers being larger in rural areas. The gaps in Tele-density, broadband mobile network deployments and smart phone adoption indicate the magnitude of the stark and growing urban-rural digital divide in India.

As mobile Internet use combined with electronic transactions and payments becomes the new norm, policy makers will need to formulate new policies, to address challenges related to the large-scale migration of mobile users to broadband networks and the use of Internet-based transactional services. How can “Demand Pull” policies complement “Supply Push” initiatives? Many governments have instituted a range of supply side policies to accelerate broadband deployment, increase availability and reduce costs. However, the effective design of complementary demand side policies remains uncertain, particularly security policies for maintaining the integrity of transactional services against cyber-attacks and cyber-fraud.

The TPRC community wishes to find out what has worked, what has not and whether there are lessons to be learned that are of general applicability, as well as for a particular developing country like India.

Keywords: Mobile Communications, Digital India, Internet

Suggested Citation

Neogi, Prabir K. and Jain, Rekha, Mobile Communications, the Internet and Digital India: A Developing Country Approach (March 8, 2018). Available at SSRN:

Prabir K. Neogi (Contact Author)

Carleton University ( email )

1869 Stonehenge Crescent
Ottawa, Ontario K1B4N7
6137462329 (Phone)

Rekha Jain

IIMA-IDEA Telecom Centre of Excellence, IIMA ( email )

Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380015

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