Slower speeds for faster growth as online firms continue adapting to India’s mobile market

World Bank cellphone mobile India

Community meeting in Aurangabad, India (Pic: World Bank)

To describe the growth of the internet in India as explosive probably downplays the rate of change taking place.

Every second three more Indians come online for the first time, adding another 10,000 people every hour to the country’s online user base.

So it’s no surprise that internet firms – particularly those of a social nature – are working hard to overcome barriers to access that range from low-powered phones to 2G connections to very little data.

Earlier this month further steps were taken in this direction by Google and then Twitter.

First, the beta version of YouTube Go – Google’s YouTube app retooled for slower networks and offering more control over how data is used – was launched, offering features allowing users to preview a video before they watch it and resolution options to help conserve data.

Cutting to the chase Google notes: “With the rapid transformation sweeping India’s mobile internet landscape, we know there will be an even greater demand for a fast and accessible video app.”

Then, casting its net wider with an announcement made just a day after Google’s, Twitter unveiled a lightweight version of its social network.

It hopes Twitter Lite – taking aim at, that’s right, lower data usage and better performance on slower or unreliable connections – will find favour in emerging markets across Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa.

But homing in on India Twitter also struck a deal with Vodafone to promote Twitter Lite to its customers as a way to receive live sports updates on cricket’s Indian Premier League.

The ‘slower speeds for faster growth’ trend can be seen in recent moves by a number of other internet firms as all players seek to increase their reach in key emerging markets like India.

These range from music discovery company Shazam, which has launched a smaller version of its mobile app that works with slower connection speeds, to similar ‘lite’ offerings from Google News and Facebook.

Meanwhile, the social network has been taking a wider look at the issues with its ‘2G Tuesdays’ initiative slows employees’ internet speeds to help them understand markets like India. (It has also been looking at allowing users to download videos when they have a good internet connection so their viewing pleasure is not compromised by poor connectivity or large data bills.)

It all fits the picture of a mobile-first internet and a future in which Asia is expected to become the ‘growth engine’ for the mobile ecosystem.


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