Photo: iStock Photo
Photo: iStock Photo

Porn ban could cost Indian ISPs, telcos 30-70% of data revenue

India's telcos are betting big on the growth of data in the country as voice services have seemingly plateaued

New Delhi: A ban on Internet pornography in India could mean a hit of as much as 30-70% of data browsing revenues for India’s communications services providers, analysts and experts say.

“Through our discussions with the various Internet Service Providers (ISPs), we have been able to estimate that as much as 30-70% of the total browsing in the country is related to pornography," a senior executive at an Internet industry body said. “It’s very difficult to be any more specific than that since putting together a data packet specific inspection of what users are browsing could be seen as a breach of privacy," added this person who asked not to be identified.

India’s telcos are betting big on the growth of data in the country as voice services have seemingly plateaued. Telcos such as Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest telco by revenue and subscribers, and Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd are investing billions of dollars to deploy 4G-based wireless data networks across the country while Bharti, Idea Cellular Ltd and Vodafone India Ltd, among others, have already deployed 3G-based data services in many parts.

In the three months ended 31 March, Bharti reported a 59.1% year-on-year rise in data revenue to 3,085 crore with average revenue per user (Arpu) for data rising 32% to 176 in the quarter. Bharti’s mobile data revenue rose 70.4% to 2,324 crore and accounted for 17.6% of the company’s India mobile revenue compared with 11.5% in the corresponding quarter last year. Non-voice revenue now makes up as much as 23.7% of total mobile revenue in India. The numbers were mainly boosted by a 41% increase in average usage per customer to 656 megabytes (MBs) and a 30% increase in data customer base to 46.3 million.

Industry analysts and experts, who were apprehensive over the sector due to dwindling voice revenues are now optimistic again due to the data numbers. “We haven’t seen what the impact will be. But if porn is such a big part of usage, then there can be some worry," a Mumbai-based analyst said.

Globally, the Internet porn industry is estimated to make revenues of $5-10 billion, 10% of the total global porn industry as most of the Internet usage is free.

Smartphones accounted for 49.9% of traffic from India while 47.5% traffic came from desktops. The remaining was from tablets, the study said.

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