NEW DELHI: The number of mobile phone users in India will increase by more than half during the next five years, offering substantial opportunities for brands in a range of categories.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the business services firm, estimated there were 636m wireless subscribers in the country in June 2010.

This means India is the second biggest market in the world on this measure, behind China.

Subscribers are forecast to number 1bn by 2014, mostly because of rising penetration rates in rural areas.

In 2015, some 107m consumers should have access to 3G mobile broadband, an audience that breaks down to 26m people in smaller towns and villages, and the rest residing in larger urban centres.

Such a trend is likely to encourage the development of greater amounts of interactive content for the web and cellphones, with advertising "partly footing the bill" when it comes to funding the production of this material.

Closer alliances between media owners and handset manufacturers are another probable outcome of this shift, while apps could play a key role in launching and differentiating brands.

Enhancements in India's digital infrastructure will also allow companies in the financial sector to expand their customer base through offering banking and similar services via portable devices.

In all, mobile broadband is forecast to generate a total of 940bn rupees ($20.2bn; €15.7bn; £12.9bn) in revenues by 2015, the study suggested.

"The transformative power of mobile broadband lies in its ability to enable greater access to the internet in India," said Sivarama Krishnan, executive director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"Everyone ... will be able to leverage a ubiquitous platform to reach out to a wide range of customers and provide diverse products and services more effectively."

Data sourced from India Infoline; additional content by Warc staff