According to the study, data revenues are expected to contribute 34 per cent to the total mobile service revenues from the current levels of around 20 per cent.  "Over the last 5 years, data revenues for the ICRA sample of telcos traced a strong CAGR of 54 per cent from Rs 3,200 crore in FY2012 to Rs 27,450 crore in FY2016," said Harsh Jagnani, AVP-Corporate Sector ratings.

However, he added that that "compared to international levels, the data revenues as proportion of total mobile service revenues in India are significantly lower, presenting a strong growth driver".

The study stated that on December 2015, the broadband subscribers (3G and 4G) comprised 46 per cent of the total data subscribers for the ICRA Sample (1), as against just 8 per cent as on June 2012. With 4G rollout, ICRA expects the proportion of mobile broadband subscribers (3G and 4G) in the total data subscribers to increase further. The study said that in order to assess future growth potential of data revenues in India, ICRA analysed data revenue trends in other markets by analysing 16 telcos covering seven different geographies from both mature as well as emerging markets.

These firms' total subscriber base stood at 2,179 million as on December 2015, constituting 31 per cent of the total global mobile subscribers, the study added. "Data revenues constitute 19 per cent of the total revenues for ICRA Sample of Indian telcos, which is significantly lower than the 40-50 per cent seen for mature international markets and 20-30 per cent seen for emerging markets. India is 3-5 years behind the developed markets in terms of roll out of data services and its penetration to a meaningful extent," Jagnani said.

"Majority of the developed markets witnessed rollout of 3G services during the period 2004-2006. In these markets, 3G services evolved and matured over 7-9 years before the rollout of 4G/LTE (Long Term Evolution) services," he said, adding that in China, 3G was rolled out in 2009 and 4G within five years but in India, 3G rollout began in 2011 "and is still in early stage, while the 4G network rollout has started".

 The study noted that the scale of data services is much smaller in India as compared to China, where total data subscribers stood at 808.6 million, constituting 62 per cent of the total subscriber base as against 163 million subscribers (27 per cent) in India as per the Sample.

Jagnani said that the comparison with other geographies including China points to a robust growth outlook for data services in India, but by a "different" path as given the high competitive intensity and risks of aggressive pricing, India will see data growth at low realisations.