NEW DELHI: The number of Indian consumers accessing social networks via mobile phones will double over the next four years, a study has predicted.

Research firm Analysys Mason reported that 33m visitors logged on to sites like Facebook and Orkut through wireless handsets in July 2010.

Figures should hit 72m by 2014, as smartphone and data transfer costs fall, and 3G services are rolled out across the country.

Just 10m people participated in the same activity during 2009, with young professionals contributing 70% of this group.

Men also currently account for a 56% share of this demographic, according to Analysys Mason.

"Innovative data tariff plans … and the significant reduction in data charges are driving adoption of data-based services such as social networking," Sourabh Kaushal, principal consultant, Analysys Mason, said.

"Handset manufacturers have also started to launch mobile handsets specifically designed for social networking in order to increase the value proposition and differentiate their devices."

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India stated that total mobile subscriptions reached 670.6m in August, up from 652.4m in July, and far out-stripping PC penetration rates.

Facebook recently opened its first office in India, and Meenal Balar, the company's international marketing manager, suggested mobile would be key.

"We are now focusing on the mobile device experience people in India have to grow," said Balar. "We have been working with several mobile handset makers to provide some compelling applications for our platform."

"We are working with almost all the operators including Aircel, Airtel [and] Idea."

Dell, the IT giant, unveiled the Streak tablet in India earlier this week, which is pre-loaded with Twitter and Facebook apps.

"The Dell Streak hits the sweet spot between traditional smartphones and larger-screen tablets," said Mahesh Bhalla, executive director, general manager of Dell India's consumer arm.

"We see this as an opportunity to help people find the right technology that best fits their mobile lifestyle."

Nokia's C3, also introduced to India in October, offers real-time updates from Facebook and Twitter on its home screen.

"Networking is now gaining among students and is not confined to business people," said TS Sridhar, regional general manager, south, for Nokia India.

"Nearly 1.7 million access [the] internet only on mobile phones, and the three most popular online activities are email, chat and social networking, with the latter two gaining popularity."

Data sourced from Analysys Mason; additional content by Warc staff