TECH TALK: 3GSM Mumbai: India Mobile Industry

India has had an unbelievable year when it comes to new mobile subscriber additions. It would have been hard to believe a year ago that India would surpass China in new monthly additions but that is exactly what has happened.

Here are some key highlights based on the presentation by TV Ramachandran of COAI. In 2006, population coverage doubled to 60% and geographic coverage trebled to 30%. India crossed the 100 GSM subscriber mark (with the total including CDMA being at nearly 150 million). India added 47 million GSM subscribers in 2006. Among the key industry initiatives in 2006 were the mobile tower sharing and subscriber verification. One of the key initiatives for 2007 is mobile IM and the expatriate money transfer project. The Indian value-added services market in 2006 was Rs 2,850 crore, and estimated to grow to Rs 4,560 crore in 2007. With the world’s lowest tariffs and ARPUs, VAS is seen as a key driver for revenues going ahead. 3G is seen as the next big thing. India’s mobile subscriber base is seen crossing 250 million in 2007 and touching 500 million by 2010.

Liz Hall of Informa provided additional perspective. India had 12% of the Asia-Pacific subscriber base in September 2006 (with China being at 43%). Apac had 970 million subscribers then. India added nearly 19 million subscribers in Q4 2006. In India, the highest cellular penetration is in Punjab at over 25% followed by Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala at 15%+. As of 2006-end, Bharti Bharati had the largest market share of 23.4% followed by Reliance Infocomm at 17.9%, BSNL at 17.7% and Hutch at 17.1%.

ContentSutra reports about a talk by BSNL’s Kuldeep Goyal: “Among the top five countries with over 100mn subs, India has the lowest number of mobile phones per 100. Couple that with low tariffs, and great utility, and you have great potential for growth. Teledensity in India is at 49.5% in urban areas and 1.84% in rural areas. Valuation of the Indian Telecom Sector is $100bn, and it contributes 13% of the GDP. Rs.10000 crores of FDI inflow in India, of which the mobile sector has 30% of the amount. Also 25MHZ is already available to be freed up by the defense in the 2.1Ghz band, and they have to vacate another 20mhz. Coverage is important, followed by local language content. BSNL has plans to set up 1 lakh customer service centers, so people don’t have to travel long distances for access.”

As I saw it, the four threads which permeated the conference were: a historical perspective of how India’s mobile industry grew, planning for the next phase of growth, 3G and wireless broadband, and value-added services.


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.