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Internet on mobile going masses with interactivity
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Senior executives with Blackberry's are what you most associate with mobile Internet. But like with all technologies, mobile Internet is also now quickly going mass, mostly on account of the drop in phone prices with surfing capabilities and some very attractive rates for the usage of Internet on mobile phones.

No access to the Internet and e-mail, would top the list of cruel punishments for professionals these days. Telecom operators say usage is rising particularly amongst the youth, and the websites they most access are those related to Bollywood, cricket and social networking.

According to Vinod Thadani, regional head, mobile, GroupM - South Asia, "The engagement of mobile is an paramount factor for this medium. Initially, it was used more by the finance and travel companies, but, later other sectors like lifestyle, apparels and even FMCG joined the brandwagon."

"The majority of Internet users today is the youth, who mostly surf the Internet during the night. And since they do not have a PC with Internet in their rooms, they prefer using the mobile phone for accessing social networking sites." says K Shankara Narayan, chief executive officer, Vodafone Essar - South.

Service providers also say that there is a marked increase in customers accessing the Internet via their mobile handsets. Each one claims that they are best than the competition, when it comes to providing a smooth surfing experience.

Venkatesh V, chief executive officer, mobile services, Bharti Airtel - Karnataka, says convenient data usage packages that can be used both on the mobile phone and laptop have also helped to drive this trend. For prepaid users Airtel has pay-and-use packages that can be purchased online. For post paid users there are unlimited download packages.

"Internet usage through mobiles has been growing at 20 per cent each month in the last few months. Since people are spending more time traveling, this is bound to increase," says Venkatesh.

"With the mobile handset functioning like a personal computer and more user friendly applications available, brand managers see an opportunity for their brands in this space," says Prathap Suthan, national creative director, Cheil Communications.

Tata DoCoMo, which launched a GSM service in Karnataka recently, has come with a new payment model - pay-for-what-you use, which charges the customer on a pulse of one second and a pricing of 1 paisa per second (instead of the standard per minute charges, which charge you for a full minute even if you have used only a few seconds).

The new payment model is applicable both for voice and data usage and could put pressure on all players to introduce more affordable Internet usage charges. DoCoMo, the Japanese telecom major, is an established player in the mobile value added services segment and can be expected to come up with innovative services.

"Data usage has increased by 40 per cent in recent times. Even 3G is round the corner, which would increase activity in this space." says Anil Sardana, managing director, Tata Teleservices.

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