Runet slowdown

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In 2014, Runet audience grew by 5% only

In 2015, the number of Runet users grew by 5% only, and some of the popular Internet sites recorded an outflow of audience. Experts believe that the reduced financing of the state programs for laying telecommunication lines in the regions will further reduce the number of users. But the mobile Internet is becoming a new driver of the industry.

There are 82 mln. users of the Russian Internet today, said the head of the analytical company TNS Ruslan Tagiyev at the RIF+KIB conference. According to him, 66% of Russians over 12 years use the Internet, and 60 mln. people use the network every day.

2014 was the first year, when the number of desktop Internet users reduced by 1%. In this context, the mobile Internet is becoming particularly popular.

50 mln. people in Russia, or 61% of the total Runet users, are the mobile Internet active users, and 11.8 mln. Russians connect to the Internet via smartphones and tablets only. Tagiyev believes that it is the increased number of gadgets that explains the fact that unique Runet users have grown by 30%.

Nevertheless, Runet real audience (the number of users) grew by 5% only (by 7% in 2013), and most of the popular Internet sites haven`t recorded any growth in the number of users either.

For example, "Yandex", the Russian leader in terms of site traffic, has increased the number of users by 0.8% only - up to 63.07 mln. people, whereas Mail.ru, which is ranked second, has had an outflow of 0.2% - down to 62.75 users. The social network "VKontakte", which takes the third place, has lost 0.8% of Russian audience and has 58.62 users now.

And this is despite the fact that in 2014, the government took a number of measures to increase the level of Internet penetration in the regions.

The most active users of the Internet are still represented by young people aged 16-29 years, living in the developed regions of the country, 96% of whom go online at least once a month. And as for people over 55, the number of Internet users among them is still less than 25%.

The country still faces difficulties in introducing the necessary Internet infrastructure. According to the estimates of J'son & Partners Consulting, nearly 30 mln. households got a broadband network in 2014, and 68% of Russian Internet users went online via mobile devices at least once. The non-urban areas of the Volga Region, the Far East and the North Caucasus have been especially successful in developing the Internet. At the same time, according to TNS, 34 million people in small towns have no access to the Internet. Significant improvements are unlikely to happen in this regard.

Decreasing pace of economic growth in 2015 will lead to the slowdown in laying of fiber-optic communication lines and the reduced investment into mobile communications in remote regions of Russia.

Minister of Communications Nikolay Nikiforov reported this during the RIF+KIB conference. In his speech, he drew attention to the fact that the funds allocated for laying fiber-optic communication lines in the regions were reduced from 14.5 bln. to 11.5 bln. rubles in 2015.

The reduction in investment into the construction of the network infrastructure will, undoubtedly, slow down the pace of the Internet penetration in the regions, thinks the analyst at "Uralsib" Konstantin Chernyshev. But according to the expert, this is not the main thing causing the low Runet audience gain.

"It begs the analogy with mobile communication, where the market also experienced the user boom, and then the subscriber base gradually declined. But the Internet will be used by more and more Russians, because most of the public services, document management and payments will be performed electronically," says Chernyshev.

However, this can be achieved with a significant support from the state, as private companies regard the development of the Internet in the regions as a long-term project and aren`t eager to invest into building fiber-optic and mobile networks.

"The private sector is much more interested in investing into the development of the mobile Internet, which is already the main driver of the revenue growth for mobile operators, IT-companies and application developers," the expert concluded.

It is the growth of the mobile Internet share that explains the popularity of Google search engine and the user-friendly mobile version of "VKontakte" pre-installed in almost all Android smartphones. Monthly users of these software products amount to more than 13 and 11 mln. people respectively.

Generally speaking, according to the head of the Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC) Sergey Plugotarenko, the volume of the Russian Internet market of services and content amounted to 1 tln. rubles. in 2014, and the volume of Internet-dependant markets amounted to 7 tln. rubles.

At the same time, online advertising market grew by 18% up to 84.6 bln. rubles, and e-commerce share increased by 42% and reached 645 bln. rubles.

In his turn, General Director of REG.RU Alexey Korolyuk said that in Russia "communications and the Internet have finally turned into an essential commodity, like food and medical goods."

We remind that at the beginning of April, "Yandex" also presented its study of the development of the Internet in Russia. According to the company experts, the Runet audience is 72.3 mln. users, and the growth of the Internet audience remained at the level of 2013 and amounted to 9%.

Text and pictures by GAZETA.RU