India adds record 15.6 mn new phone users in March (Second Lead)

April 22nd, 2009 - 9:39 pm ICT by IANS  

KPMG New Delhi, April 22 (IANS) Showing no signs of any slowdown and backed by heavy rural demand, India added a record 15.87 million new phone connections in March, to take its telecom density to nearly 40 percent, fresh data said Wednesday.
India, which already boasts of the second-largest telecom user base in the world after China’s and ahead of the US, now has 429.72 million telecom subscribers, both in the wireless and mobile segments, with a record growth of 59.48 percent last fiscal.

“With this growth, the overall tele-density has reached 36.98 at the end of March 2009 as against 35.65 in February 2009,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the industry watchdog, said in a statement.

However, telecom experts are not impressed by the growth figures.

“The growth is good but the penetration of telecom services in the rural areas has not been impressive,” Jaideep Ghosh, communications director of global consultancy firm KPMG, said.

“If we were to measure the tele-density in rural areas, it is hardly in double digit number,” he added.

The maximum growth, the data showed, came in the wireless market, which expanded by 15.64 million subscribers in March, to 391.76 million. In the wire-line segment, the subscriber base increased by 230,000 connections to 37.96 million.

“These number would continue for 8-10 quarters owing to low sim card prices, but then for how long will these sim cards produce money for telecom operators? This is a major issue,” Ghosh said.

The industry watchdog said the broadband base also continued to expand at an equally fast pace to 6.22 million as against 5.85 million in February.

The industry has been attributing the fast expansion last fiscal, in spite of an overall economic slowdown, to the growing appetite in rural areas. Studies show that India’s demand in the hinterland remained robust, as against the decline in urban centres.

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