Will More Expensive Mobile Data Curb Advance of Online Gaming?



Vodafone Joined Airtel Raising Prepaid Plans with up to 20-25 Percent

Vodafone Idea’s new 20 to 25 percent higher prices on prepaid plans were announced on November 23 and became effective as of November 25. The move happened almost simultaneously with the same-percentage hike of Bharti Airtel’s prepaid packs which were communicated a day earlier, on November 22, and came into force a day later, on November 26.

Vi’s most commonly used prepaid plan featuring 1.5GB data per day for 28 days was ₹249 and now is ₹299, after undergoing the same hike as Airtel’s 1.5GB plan. Vodafone’s 1GB per-day plan was raised from ₹219 to ₹269, while Airtel’s equivalent plan was increased to ₹265, again from previous ₹219. Both operators’ 2GB daily data plans were hiked to ₹359, coming from ₹299 in Vodafone’s tariffs, and ₹298 in Airtel’s case.

Both Vodafone and Airtel’s plans with 56- and 84-day validity underwent similar increases with small differences here and there. For example, VI’s 56 days pack of 2GB data per day was hiked to ₹539, while Airtel’s equivalent plan was raised to ₹549, with both coming from previous ₹449. The yearly and data top up packs of both telecoms were also hiked similarly, with Vi’s ₹1499 and Airtel’s ₹1498 for 365-day-valid 24GB both becoming ₹1799, and the 3GB of data top up getting raised from ₹48 to ₹58 in both cases.

Mobile Data Has Been Driving Internet Penetration

According to data from the last quarterly Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators report by TRAI for the period April to June 2021, India’s internet penetration reached 83.371 crore at the end of the period. This marks a 1.02 percent growth from the previous quarter and an 11.30 percent YoY growth over the end of June 2020 figure of 74.907 crore subscriptions.

Notably, 97.07 percent of the whole internet user base, or 80.948 crore people, used wireless mobile internet. Fixed wireless services were employed by 0.08 percent or 6.6 lakh people, and wired subscriptions amounted to 2.358 crore or 2.83 percent.

Mobile is the Backbone of India’s Gaming Sector

A recent report by VC firm Sequoia and global advisory company BCG shows the 2020 revenue of the Indian gaming market at $1.8 billion, marking a 500 percent growth from 2016. Mobile gaming is responsible for $1.5 billion or 86 percent of 2020’s revenues, and is expected to reach $5 billion by 2025. For comparison, in 2020 mobile gaming was 59 percent of the Chinese and 28 percent of the US gaming markets.

These findings are in line with the conclusions of another recent report on smartphone brand usage in India by ENV Media where the growth of the country’s gaming sector is attributed to some of the world’s cheapest data packages and the availability of affordable smartphones. Proprietary SevenJackpots Google Analytics data reviewed by the report shows 87.16 percent of all organic searches originating from mobile users for the period between January 1 and April 30, 2021.

Mobile Gaming and the Price Hike

The Sequoia and BCG report reveals that 53 percent of the $1.5 billion revenues from mobile gaming in India for 2020 were generated by real money gaming (RMG), 27 percent came from in-app purchases (IAPs), and the remaining 20 percent were business-to-business payments for ads placement.

Burdening the pockets of customers with higher priced prepaid plans will inevitably impact how people interact with sites offering real money gaming or even cricket betting tips, possibly slowing the pace of the online gaming sector’s growth. On the other hand, benefits coming with the prepaid packages stay the same or get a boost in some cases, and the quality of service is expected to increase, even though no one has offered 3GB of daily data so far.

Indeed, the fight for new users and market share seems to have transformed into a fight for better service. Airtel has stated that the price hike is necessary for further investments in network and spectrum including the pending roll-out of 5G in the country.

“Bharti Airtel has always maintained that the mobile Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) needs to be at ₹200 and ultimately at ₹300, so as to provide a reasonable return on capital that allows for a financially healthy business model,” said the telecom press statement.

Currently, Airtel has an ARPU of ₹153, with the same indicator being ₹144 for Reliance Jio, and ₹109 for Vodafone Idea.

India’s mobile gaming sector will have to swallow the new price hikes in order to continue relying on mobile data penetration which has proved to be the sector’s backbone. Healthier telecoms capable of rolling out 5G services across the country will in its turn boost quality of gaming.