India’s overall data traffic, which grew 36% year-on-year in 2020, will rise further once a low-cost smartphone for 4G wireless service is launched, said a report by Nokia. The entry of such a device will prompt a significant chunk of 2G and 3G subscribers to migrate to 4G.

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) chair Mukesh Ambani, while announcing the Jio Platforms Ltd and Google LLC partnership at his company’s annual meeting in July 2020, had said the American technology giant would build an Android operating system (OS) to power a low-cost “4G or even 5G” smartphone that would be designed by Jio.

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Of the total data traffic last calendar year, 4G accounted for 98.7% of internet consumed across the country, Nokia said in its India Mobile Broadband Index 2021 report. Data consumption in 3G showed the highest ever decline of 56% in 2020.

Nokia said the smartphone industry will clock a double-digit growth in 2021 as customers adopt hybrid work models—a combination of remote and work from office, consume online content, and meet their education and healthcare needs digitally.

“Despite covid-19 restrictions, about 150 million smartphones were shipped in India. The nation registered highest ever shipment of +53 million units in Q3 2020,” Nokia said.

The average monthly data traffic per user increased 20.4% y-o-y in 2020 driven by rise in data subscribers and mobile video consumption. The combined (3G+4G) average data usage per month was 13.5GB as of December, and for 4G, data usage per user reached 13.7GB.

New users from rural areas also contributed to the rising monthly data usage in 2020. Rural consumption accounts for approximately 45% of the overall mobile data usage, Nokia said.

The current mobile broadband, where download speeds are over 512kbps (kilobyte per second), penetration is about 63% with an average data usage of 13.5GB per month, Nokia said. The usage is expected to grow exponentially with the roll out of 5G, it added.

Fixed or wireline broadband has covered only a “dismal” 7.5% of the total households with average fixed data usage of 178GB per user per month. “There is a headroom for growth in data as well as penetration across mobile and fixed domains,” Nokia said.

About five hours were spent by a smartphone user per day in 2020, with content including YouTube, social media and over-the-top (OTT) videos accounting for 54%, while 46% was for fitness, fintech, edtech, e-commerce, among others.

“With the advent of 5G, in the next few years, India will see significant growth in short videos enabled by richer content, consumer curated content and enhanced peer-to-peer communication,” Nokia said.

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