NEW DELHI: The mobile internet is rapidly gaining popularity in India, where over 200m consumers now go online using wireless handsets.

Figures from the Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India show the number of people surfing the net via this route has climbed 70% in the last year, reaching 214m as of June 2010.

While this equates to less than half of the 650m subscriber base, it greatly outstrips online penetration through laptops and PCs, as just 6% of India's 1.1bn citizens browse the web from computers.

Telecoms provider Bharti Airtel boasted the most customers utilising data packages, on 71m during the sixth month of this year, TRAI said.

Vodafone Essar followed in second place on this measure, and anticipates the introduction of third-generation devices should fuel a range of new trends.

"3G will enable us to bring fantastic services to this country and the data opportunity in this market is great," said Vittorio Colao, ceo of Vodafone.

"Data will be segmented and the plans will be tailor-made for different segments of the population. Data will bring consolidation to the business, because it is nonsense to have 13-14 players with only some offering data services."

Tata Teleservices operates in partnership with NTT Docomo, and recognises the enormous potential observable in India.

"The way GSM services led to mobile phones being the first telephone at home in India, 3G products and services will lead the democratization of information," said Deepak Gulati, evp, mobility at Tata Teleservices.

"[The] proliferation of 3G services will see mobile internet far outpacing conventional forms of internet access.

"As the consumers see value in what 3G can provide... the total wallet size for telecom will increase."

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff