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Indian Telecom Industry

May, 2014


India is the world’s second-largest telecommunications market. The mobile phone industry in India is likely to contribute US$ 400 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and has the potential to generate about 4.1 million additional jobs by 2020, as per Ms Anne Bouverot, Director General, Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA).

“India’s data story is very promising. Vodafone is investing nearly US$ 3 billion over the next two years in India in expanding its network infrastructure and distribution channel in the country,” as per Mr Vittorio Colao, CEO, Vodafone Plc.

Key Statistics

The telecommunications industry attracted foreign direct investments (FDI) worth US$ 59,796 million between April 2000 to January 2014, an increase of 6 per cent to the total FDI inflows in terms of US$, according to data published by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

Online platforms that support user-generated content can become an important part of India’s internet economy and contribute around Rs 2,490 billion (US$ 41.5 billion) by 2015, according to Global Network Initiative (GNI) report titled ‘Closing the Gap: Indian Online Intermediaries and a Liability System Not Yet Fit for Purpose’.

BlackBerry has chosen India as the third country to set up enterprise solutions centres to educate corporate customers about various BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 10 solutions. "India is one of the fastest growing markets in terms of smartphone and mobile data adoption,” said Mr Sunil Lalvani, Managing Director (MD), BlackBerry India.

Market Dynamics

India’s global system for mobile (GSM) operators added 4.14 million rural subscribers in January 2014, taking the total to 285.35 million.

India's GSM cellular subscriber base increased marginally in November to 688.02 million with an addition of 4.87 million new subscribers during the month, said industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Data traffic powered by third generation (3G) services grew at 146 per cent in India during 2013, higher than the global average that saw use double, according to an MBit Index study by Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). The data consumed per subscriber for 3G is 532 megabytes (MB), against 146 MB for second generation (2G).

Tata Teleservices plans to set up nearly 4,000 wi-fi hotspots in nine cities across the country in the next two years. India's smartphone market grew by 171 per cent last year to 44 million devices from 16.2 million in 2012, as per research firm IDC India.

The 20 km free Wi-Fi zone the longest across the globe was unveiled by Mr Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, Government of India.

Key Developments & Investments

  • Japanese companies are keen to establish telecom gear test labs in India even as the government prepares to invite bids from private lab operators to pave the way for local testing from July 2014.
  • Airtel Networks Kenya Ltd has sought an approval from the Communications Authority of Kenya to acquire the telecommunications licenses and subscribers of Essar Telecom Kenya Ltd.
  • Tata Communications has signed a collaboration agreement with Turkey's telecom operator Turkcell Superonline to set up a multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) node in Istanbul.
  • Bharti Airtel and six other GSM majors serving the Africa and Middle-East markets plan to forge network infrastructure sharing pacts to provide internet and mobile broadband access to unserved rural communities and drive down mobile services delivery costs for all sections of the population in these regions.
  • Infotech Enterprises, through its US arm, plans to buy the US-based Softential Inc, which provides service management and service assurance solutions for telecom firms and cable operators. The deal size is pegged in the range of Rs 150-180 crore (US$ 25-30 million).
  • Intelliverse Telecom, a cloud-based communication solutions provider launches IntelliGreeter, a virtual voice attendant for call routing to any phone.
  • Bharti Airtel plans to invest more than Rs 4,000 crore (US$ 666.67 million) in Punjab over a period of five years. The company aims to take its fourth generation long-term evolution (4G LTE) services to all towns and villages across Punjab.
  • Reliance Jio Infocomm has signed a master services agreement with Bharti Infratel to utilise the latter's telecom tower infrastructure to launch its high-speed 4G plans where it will also offer voice over internet across the country.

Government Initiatives

The Government of India has approved the Empowered Group of Minister's (EGoM) decision on spectrum pricing. The Group had endorsed the Telecom Commission's proposal to fix reserve price for the 1,800 megahertz (MHz) and 900 MHz spectrum bands.

Liberalised FDI policy in telecommunication has been proposed in the Union Budget 2014-15 to attract large investments. In addition, the states will partner in development so as to enable the Centre to focus on telecommunications besides other sectors.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) will shortly sign a bandwidth-sharing agreement with Power Grid Corporation of India to boost telecom connectivity across the Northeast, says a telecom department note. Power Grid will provide 400 gigabit per second (Gbps) of bandwidth to state-run BSNL for building a network path to improve connectivity in places close to the Chinese and Bangladesh borders.

Road Ahead

The telecom industry and the Government need to work together to attract investments and exploit advances in technology. With the success in voice-connectivity being carried forward to data and emerging technologies including cloud computing, the government is targeting broadband connectivity to over 600 million in 2020.

Various policy initiatives by the Indian government have led to a complete transformation of the industry in the last decade. It has achieved a phenomenal growth during the last few years and is poised to grow further. On back of the ongoing investments into infrastructure, the country is projected to witness high penetration in the sector in the near future.

Exchange Rate Used: INR 1 = US$ 0.01669 as on March 28, 2014

References: Media Reports, Department of Telecommunication, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), RNCOS