Even though consumer spending has taken a knock, Indian mobile engine seems to be growing at a frenetic pace. The Indian mobile operators have added a healthy 10.07 mn subscribers in September compared with 9.16 mn in August, and 9.22 mn in July.

With this addition, the total number of telephone (Wireline and Wireless) connections has reached 353.66 mn at the end of September 2008 as compared to 343.87 mn in August 2008, and the overall tele-density has reached 30.64% at the end of September 2008, growing by 2.71% over the previous month.

The number of subscribers has grown by 3.5 % over the month of August, while the growth in last 12 months ending September 2008 is 46%, as indicated by figures released by TRAI. The subscriber base for mobile services (GSM, CDMA & WLL (F)) increased to 315.31 mn at the end of September 2008 from 305.24 a month ago, at the cost of landline services which witnessed a decline from 38.62 mn at the end of August 2008 to 38.35 mn at the end of September.

Bharti Airtel remains the leader in mobile segment with 77.47 mn subscribers at the end of September 2008, thus becoming the third largest in-country mobile operator in the world, with Reliance coming second at 56.04 mn subscribers, though it’s the market leader in CDMA technology base.

BSNL retains the leadership in landline connections with 30.12 mn subscribers at the end of September 2008, a decrease from 30.44 mn at the end of previous month. MTNL at a distant second, also continues to register a decline in this segment, this time figure being about 30,000. Few other players like Bharti and Reliance have registered small increments here.

Total Broadband subscriber base (connections with download speed ≥256 kbps) has reached 4.90 mn by the end of September 2008 registering a 3.6% growth over the month of August 2008, though total Internet subscribers had increased to 11.66 mn at the end of June 2008. It should be noted that the growth in broadband subscribers is 3.6% which is marginally higher than the growth of phone connections that is 3.5%.

India is the world's fastest-growing market for wireless services and the second-largest market for such services after China. This growth is being fuelled by cheap handsets and call rates as low as one US cent a minute. GSM operators' body COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) has predicted that India’s mobile subscriber base is expected to touch the 750 mn mark by 2012 and 1 bn by 2015.

According to reports, the Department of Telecom (DOT) has asked the telecom regulator, TRAI to review termination rates paid by one operator to another, which could result in lower mobile tariffs by upto 20 paisa.

Industry Factfile: (At the end of June 2008)

  • 75.97 mn wireless Internet subscribers are capable of accessing Internet through mobile handset (GSM/ CDMA).
  • Number of Public Call Offices (PCOs) has increased to 6.22 mn.
  • ARPU Declines
  • There has been a decline in per month ARPU in all segments including GSM, CDMA, Postpaid and Prepaid Services over the period of March 2008 to June 2008.

o    GSM                    : From Rs.264 to Rs.239.

o    Postpaid Service    : From  Rs.638 to  Rs.600.

o    Prepaid Service     : From Rs.224 to Rs.204.

o    CDMA                 : From Rs.150 to Rs.139.   

  • Across all the Multi System Operators (MSOs) in the country, the maximum number of Free-to-Air (FTA) and Pay Channels being carried in the cable networks are 151 and 99 respectively. There are 124 pay channels as reported by 17 broadcasters/their distributors.
  • 236 FM Radio stations are in operation. Out of 51 licensed community radio stations, 35 stations are in operation.
  • The Share of Public and Private sector enterprises in the total AGR (Adjusted Gross revenue) from Telecom Service is 31.37% and 68.63% respectively.
  • As at the end of June 2008, 71 mn of the total 287 mn mobile subscribers were in rural India. That means the subscribers rural:urban = 26 : 74 while the population distribution is approx 70:30.

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