Out of the 900 million-plus mobile subscribers in India, 71 million or around 8 per cent use multiple SIM cards (please keep in mind that multi-SIM users don't necessarily mean dual-SIM handset users; they can be individuals carrying two or more handsets). Towns with population of 5-10 lakh each have the highest density of multi-SIM users (as many as 21 per cent of the population are using multi-SIMs) while 11 per cent use multi-SIMs in a town-class of 40 lakh-plus population and only 9 per cent in the rural areas, according to a survey by Nielsen.
Not surprisingly, young people lead the multi-SIM user class, with 45 per cent belonging to the 18-25 age groups. They largely include students, newly employed and working professionals. A typical user owns two SIM cards (but from different operators) and both are prepaid (probably to have better control on costs). Also, smaller operators have a relatively higher share among multi-SIM card users. While Uninor has just 1 per cent market share among mobile users, it goes up to 6 per cent when it comes to multi-SIM user share and it is the same with Aircel (a slight increase from 7 to 8 per cent).
According to the study, consumers are mostly driven by a want to optimise tariffs and take advantage of better and cheaper deals offered by operators.
"But for most of the multi-SIM card users, there has not been a significant increase in their monthly mobile expenses in spite of maintaining two separate connections. For every two out of five multi-SIM users, expenses have remained consistent. Only 12 per cent users have reported a substantial rise in costs," Farshad Family, MD (media) of Nielsen India, stated in the report.
Nokia leads dual-SIM handset market
Although many people still choose to switch SIM cards manually or carry more than one phone, dual-SIM handsets are rapidly gaining in popularity. In fact, 61 per cent of the handsets used by multi-SIM users are dual-SIM ones. Nokia is the clear leader in the dual-SIM handset market with 30 per cent of the market share, followed by Samsung with 16 per cent and home grown handset manufacturer Micromax with 12 per cent. The dual-SIM bug has also bitten other big players like HTC. The company has recently introduced Desire V, its first dual-SIM offering.