The Indian Economy Blog

November 14, 2005

Telecom Sector Update

Filed under: Growth,Infrastructure,Science and Technology — Reuben Abraham @ 5:20 am

The telecom sector in India continued to record rapid growth in the month of October, adding 3.24 million new subscribers. This takes the total subscriber base to 116 million and the tele-density to 10.66 (per 100 population). In the mobile phone sector alone, 2.9 million new subscribers were added, taking the GSM subscriber base to 53 million and the CDMA base to 15 million.


  1. Reuben

    Extremely useful and succinct information. What percentage of the Indian population has a telephone? The total subscriber base might not provide the answer to this question since presumably certain firms and individuals will have more than one line.


    Comment by Jaffna — November 14, 2005 @ 3:04 pm

  2. I think the Chinese market is around 400 million. In conjunction with India, you have the world’s largets market, of around half a billion mobile users and growing, right there. That is indeed impressive! It will be interesting to see what kind of applications are bought out. Companies in the west are trying all sorts of things – walkie-talkie [Nextel], VCast – Video [Verizon],mp3 phones [Cingular]. What applications will work for developing nations like India?

    Good info, as always.


    Comment by Ram — November 14, 2005 @ 9:06 pm

  3. Jaffna,
    You raise a point that I have raised with ITU folks before. To me, it seems like it makes no sense to derive the teledensity figures from the combined mobile+landline numbers. There is bound to be a substantial overlap between the users of landline and mobile phones. Nonetheless, this is the standardised procedure for teledensity that is used across the world (China’s teledensity numbers face the same problem), so it gives you a reasonable snapshot. The fact that India’s teledensity has shot up from 1 in 1999 (just after the Telecom Act of 1999) to 10.66 now is definitely worth noting.

    The Chinese telecom market has over 600 million subscribers, with landlines at about 200 million. What’s more, the HUGE growth in the mobile market in the past couple of years (2 billion subscribers worldwide now) has been driven almost entirely by emerging markets. So, it would seem like a no-brainer to develop applications and services for this new market. In fact, applications developed for emerging markets could possibly be integrated into certain segments of developed markets too. Interesting times!

    Comment by Reuben Abraham — November 14, 2005 @ 11:44 pm

  4. I wonder if there is another kind of “double-counting” involved. Does the mobile phone subscriber base include individual people or does it count every SIM card that was ever sold? I’m afraid it might be the latter… Could you say something about that?

    Comment by sumeet — November 15, 2005 @ 11:55 am

  5. Sumeet, I think every SIM card is counted, though there may well be ways to statistically control for people like me who buy a new SIM every time I visit India. Like I mentioned in the earlier comment, these statistical techniques are standardized across the world and provides a useful comparison tool. Beyond that, statistics are what you make of it :)

    Comment by Reuben Abraham — November 15, 2005 @ 10:43 pm

  6. Sumeet, Reuben:

    Different operators control for short-term churn in different ways when they report their subscriber base to TRAI. Hutch only reports SIMs that have been active for at least three months, while Airtel reports those which have been active for at least one month. This was the situation as reported by Business World (IIRC) about two years ago (IIRC). It may have changed now.

    Comment by Aadisht Khanna — November 16, 2005 @ 5:36 pm

  7. Thanks, Aaadisht. Very useful to know. I thought they were using statistical techniques, but this is easier.

    Comment by Reuben Abraham — November 16, 2005 @ 8:25 pm

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  10. Reuben,

    Is it possible to further determine the usage statistics (for example, how many subscribers use SMS, how many use it for just receiving calls)? Any pointers would be appreciated. That might provide some insight into how mobiles are changing the way all of us live and work and may provide some surprises…

    Santosh (

    Comment by Santosh — February 6, 2006 @ 9:24 pm

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