NEW DELHI: Mobile data usage is rising rapidly in India, as more and more consumers access the web and use apps via their smartphones.

Vodafone, the telecoms provider, reported that its Indian data subscriber base hit 30m last year, and anticipates this figure should expand dramatically going forward.

Smartphones are driving this trend, with the typical Vodafone user of these devices consuming four times the amount of data than the typical feature phone owner.

"We have recently upgraded our network, billing capabilities and internal capabilities to position ourselves well to take on the continued momentum," Jonathan Bill, Vodafone India's head, data services and 3G, told the Business Standard.

Bharti Airtel, one of Vodafone's major rivals, has also seen data downloads increase by 10% per month in the recent past.

Roughly half of its subscribers now have handsets capable of accessing mobile data, and 14% of its revenues are drawn from value-added services (VAS) like selling music and ringtones.

"In fact, Airtel sells more music than any music company. In the next phase of growth, we expect to see the demand for VAS moving towards data-based applications," said K Srinivas, president of Bharti Airtel's consumer business.

Mobile commerce, healthcare, entertainment and education are among the areas the company believes will witness a significant hardening in interest this year.

Estimates from IAMAI, the government body, and IMRB, the insights provider, suggested that India had 30m mobile internet users in 2011, against a total of 12.1m in 2010.

Looking further ahead, the Boston Consulting Group, the management consultancy, forecast that some 237m people could participate in this pastime by 2015.

Nielsen, the research firm, revealed that 15 to 25-year-old smartphone owners spend an average of over three hours a day on the devices, with 60% of their time dedicated to entertainment, like gaming or browsing the web.

"The Indian consumer's quest for a new phone is almost entirely feature driven. And, while the camera and FM radio remain favourites, consumers are now also looking for internet connectivity via their mobile phones, hoping to finally connect to the growing online community," said Farshad Family, managing director, media, Nielsen India.

Data sourced from Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff