India has 500 million mobile phone numbers
14 December 2009
NEW DELHI: By the start of the New Year, India will have breached a previously unthinkable landmark — half a billion wireless connections — making it the second largest group of mobile phone users after China.
Overall, telephone connections in India (fixed line and wireless) will be closing in on 550 million by the time you read this. This translates into a teledensity (phone connections per 100 population) of roughly 45%, an urban teledensity closer to 97% and a rural teledensity of about 18%.
India had crossed 488.40 million wireless connections at the end of October 2009 and will be breaching the half-billion wireless connections mark just about now. Yet, the actual number of subscribers might be less than half a billion, since a few hold multiple SIM cards and not all of them are in use at the same time.
In sharp contrast, wireline connectivity is down to 37.25 million phones, exhibiting a clear consumer preference for wireless, including mobile phones, as a preferred technology for voice and data communications. India’s broadband penetration, however, is abysmally low at 7.5 million — a consequence, say telecom experts, of policy failure, partly due to the declining use of wireline phones.
India’s telephony growth is remarkable despite the fact that the last two years have been full of controversy and litigation, with government and industry divided on crucial issues like spectrum policy, tariffs and introduction of new competition.
India has 13 to 14 operators providing wireless connectivity — mostly mobile — in its 22 service areas. Of these, 8-9 companies are operational and another 5-6 are obligated to launch service to meet rollout obligations. Many of the new entrants who had bagged spectrum in January 2008 have been unable to get off the ground nearly two years after receiving licences.