Google

Google has launched a new streamlined version of its search results page in India keeping in mind that most mobile connections in the country are still on the 2G network. The search giant claims that if a user is on a slow wireless connection it will be automatically detected and a fast loading version of Search will be delivered. It will eat up less data thereby reducing data consumption charges for users as well (even if marginally). The company also mentions that elements such as images and maps will only show up when they are an essential part of the result, which will further increase the page load time.

Speaking to entrepreneurs and developers at an event organized by NASSCOM, during his visit to India for the launch of Android One, Google SVP Sundar Pichai had said that Android One tries to address the issues impacting growth of the Internet on mobile. According to him there are three main issues, hardware (People need to get access to the same quality of hardware), software (Phones aren’t very secure and the experience is inconsistent across devices) and connectivity (people don’t have access to quality connectivity).

On the question of mobile internet connectivity it needs to be pointed out that rates for 2G mobile internet plans are quite high. This works as an entry-level barrier for several users, which in turn has stifled mass adoption of mobile Internet usage in India. In October last year, Airtel hiked its 2G data rates by 25-50 per cent. Postpaid customers were shifted to the new plan without seeking explicit consent.

Airtel isn’t the only telco that charges high 2G data plan rates. Idea customers in Mumbai need to shell out Rs 154 for 1GB data and Vodafone customers pay Rs 155 for the same plan. In Kolkata, I’m paying Rs 251 for 1GB data valid for 28 days on a Vodafone 3G connection. In comparison, the equivalent 2G plan costs Rs 155 for 1 GB data. The high cost of the 2G plan isn’t justified, because the speed difference between the two is huge.

2G mobile internet connections still outnumber 3G connections

Though 3G mobile internet connections are on the rise across all telcos, the number of 2G connections is still well ahead. For the quarter ended June 30, 2014 (Q1-FY15), Reliance Communications reported 28.6 million mobile internet connections, of which 54.5% (or 15.6 million) were 2G connections and 45.5% (or 13 million) were 3G connections. Airtel had reported 12.53 million 3G connections during the quarter, of which just 31.9% (or 12.53 million) were 3G connections and 68.1% (or 26.79 million) were 2G connections. It was the same for Vodafone and Idea Cellular in Q1-FY15 as they reported that 82.5% and 62% of mobile internet connections were 2G, respectively.