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Telecommunications in India

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Telecommunications in India

Communications in India
Revenue (Total) USD 33,350 million[1]
Telephone Subscribers (Total) (2013) 915.19 million (December 2013)[2]
Fixed lines (December 2013) 28.89 million
Mobile phones (2013) 886.3 million
Monthly telephone additions (Net) (December 2013) 5.5 million
Teledensity (2013) 74.02%
Rural Teledensity 42.67%[2]
Internet access
Percent household access (total), 2012 10.2% of households (137 million)
Percent broadband household access 1.18% of households (14.31 million)
Broadband internet users 55.20 million (December 2013)[2]
Internet Service Providers (2012) 155
country code top-level domain .in
Television broadcast stations (2009) 1,400
Radio broadcast stations (1997) 800
More than half of the mobile phones sold in India in 2012 were smart phones

India's telecommunication network is the second largest in the world based on the total number of telephone users (both fixed and mobile phone).[3] It has one of the lowest call tariffs in the world enabled by the mega telephone networks and hyper-competition among them. It has the world's third-largest Internet user-base. According to the Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the Internet user base in the country stood at 190 million at the end of June, 2013.[4] Major sectors of the Indian telecommunication industry are telephony, internet and television broadcast Industry in the country which is in an ongoing process of transforming into next generation network, employs an extensive system of modern network elements such as digital telephone exchanges, mobile switching centres, media gateways and signalling gateways at the core, interconnected by a wide variety of transmission systems using fibre-optics or Microwave radio relay networks. The access network, which connects the subscriber to the core, is highly diversified with different copper-pair, optic-fibre and wireless technologies. DTH, a relatively new broadcasting technology has attained significant popularity in the Television segment. The introduction of private FM has given a fillip to the radio broadcasting in India. Telecommunication in India has greatly been supported by the INSAT system of the country, one of the largest domestic satellite systems in the world. India possesses a diversified communications system, which links all parts of the country by telephone, Internet, radio, television and satellite.[5]

Indian telecom industry underwent a high pace of market liberalisation and growth since the 1990s and now has become the world's most competitive and one of the fastest growing telecom markets.[6][7] The Industry has grown over twenty times in just ten years, from under 37 million subscribers in the year 2001 to over 846 million subscribers in the year 2011.[1] India has the world's second-largest mobile phone user base with over 929.37 million users as of May 2012.[5] It has the world's third-largest Internet user-base with over 137 million as of June 2012.[8][9]

The total revenue of the Indian telecom sector grew by 7% to 2832 billion (US$46 billion) for 2010–11 financial year, while revenues from telecom equipment segment stood at 1170 billion (US$19 billion).[10]

Telecommunication has supported the socioeconomic development of India and has played a significant role to narrow down the rural-urban digital divide to some extent. It also has helped to increase the transparency of governance with the introduction of e-governance in India. The government has pragmatically used modern telecommunication facilities to deliver mass education programmes for the rural folk of India.[11]


The beginning

A microwave tower for short distance (~50 km) communication

The history of Indian telecom can be started with the introduction of telegraph. The Indian postal and telecom sectors are one of the worlds oldest. In 1850, the first experimental electric telegraph line was started between Calcutta and Diamond Harbour. In 1851, it was opened for the use of the British East India Company. The Posts and Telegraphs department occupied a small corner of the Public Works Department,[12] at that time.

The construction of 4,000 miles (6,400 km) of telegraph lines was started in November 1853. These connected Kolkata (then Calcutta) and Peshawar in the north; Agra, Mumbai (then Bombay) through Sindwa Ghats, and Chennai (then Madras) in the south; Ootacamund and Bangalore. William O'Shaughnessy, who pioneered the telegraph and telephone in India, belonged to the Public Works Department, and worked towards the development of telecom throughout this period. A separate department was opened in 1854 when telegraph facilities were opened to the public.

In 1880, two telephone companies namely The Oriental Telephone Company Ltd. and The Anglo-Indian Telephone Company Ltd. approached the Government of India to establish telephone exchanges in India. The permission was refused on the grounds that the establishment of telephones was a Government monopoly and that the Government itself would undertake the work. In 1881, the Government later reversed its earlier decision and a licence was granted to the Oriental Telephone Company Limited of England for opening telephone exchanges at Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Ahmedabad and the first formal telephone service was established in the country.[13] On 28 January 1882, Major E. Baring, Member of the Governor General of India's Council declared open the Telephone Exchanges in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The exchange in Calcutta named the "Central Exchange" had a total of 93 subscribers in its early stage. Later that year, Bombay also witnessed the opening of a telephone exchange.[14]

Further developments and milestones

Development of Broadcasting: Radio broadcasting was initiated in 1927 but became state responsibility only in 1930. In 1937 it was given the name All India Radio and since 1957 it has been called Akashvani.[16] Limited duration of television programming began in 1959, and complete broadcasting followed in 1965. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting owned and maintained the audio-visual apparatus—including the television channel Doordarshan—in the country prior to the economic reforms of 1991. In 1997, an autonomous body was established in the name of Prasar Bharti to take care of the public service broadcasting under the Prasar Bharti Act. All India Radio and Doordarshan, which earlier were working as media units under the Ministry of I&B became constituents of the body.[11]

Pre-liberalisation statistics: While all the major cities and towns in the country were linked with telephones during the British period, the total number of telephones in 1948 numbered only around 80,000. Post independence, growth remained slow because the telephone was seen more as a status symbol rather than being an instrument of utility. The number of telephones grew leisurely to 980,000 in 1971, 2.15 million in 1981 and 5.07 million in 1991, the year economic reforms were initiated in the country.

Liberalisation and privatisation

Liberalisation of Indian telecommunication industry started in 1981 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed contracts with Alcatel CIT of France to merge with the state owned Telecom Company (ITI), in an effort to set up 5,000,000 lines per year. But soon the policy was let down because of political opposition.[17] Attempts to liberalise the telecommunication industry were continued by the following government under the prime-minister-ship of Rajiv Gandhi. He invited Sam Pitroda, a US-based Non-resident Indian NRI and a former Rockwell International executive to set up a Centre for Development of Telematics(C-DOT) which manufactured electronic telephone exchanges in India for the first time.[18] Sam Pitroda had a significant role as a consultant and adviser in the development of telecommunication in India.[19]

In 1985, the Department of Telecom(DoT) was separated from Indian Post & Telecommunication Department. DoT was responsible for telecom services in entire country until 1986 when Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) and Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) were carved out of DoT to run the telecom services of metro cities(Delhi and Mumbai) and international long distance operations respectively.[18]

The demand for telephones was ever increasing and in the 1990s Indian government was under increasing pressure to open up the telecom sector for private investment as a part of Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation policies that the government had to accept to overcome the severe fiscal crisis and resultant balance of payments issue in 1991. Consequently, private investment in the sector of Value Added Services (VAS) was allowed and cellular telecom sector were opened up for competition from private investments. It was during this period that the Narsimha Rao-led government introduced the National Telecommunications policy (NTP) in 1994 which brought changes in the following areas: ownership, service and regulation of telecommunications infrastructure. The policy introduced the concept of telecommunication for all and its vision was to expand the telecommunication facilities to all the villages in India.[20] Liberalisation in the basic telecom sector was also envisaged in this policy.[21] They were also successful in establishing joint ventures between state owned telecom companies and international players. Foreign firms were eligible to 49% of the total stake. The multi-nationals were just involved in technology transfer, and not policy making.[17]

During this period, the World Bank and ITU had advised the Indian Government to liberalise long distance services to release the monopoly of the state owned DoT and VSNL and to enable competition in the long distance carrier business which would help reduce tariff's and better the economy of the country. The Rao run government instead liberalised the local services, taking the opposite political parties into confidence and assuring foreign involvement in the long distance business after 5 years. The country was divided into 20 telecommunication circles for basic telephony and 18 circles for mobile services. These circles were divided into category A, B and C depending on the value of the revenue in each circle. The government threw open the bids to one private company per circle along with government owned DoT per circle. For cellular service two service providers were allowed per circle and a 15 years licence was given to each provider. During all these improvements, the government did face oppositions from ITI, DoT, MTNL, VSNL and other labour unions, but they managed to keep away from all the hurdles.[17]

In 1997, the government set up TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) which reduced the interference of Government in deciding tariffs and policy making. The political powers changed in 1999 and the new government under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee was more pro-reforms and introduced better liberalisation policies. In 2000, the Vajpayee government constituted the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) through an amendment of the TRAI Act, 1997.[22][23] The primary objective of TDSAT's establishment was to release TRAI from adjudicatory and dispute settlement functions in order to strengthen the regulatory framework. Any dispute involving parties like licensor, licensee, service provider and consumers are resolved by TDSAT. Moreover, any direction, order or decision of TRAI can be challenged by appealing in TDSAT.[24] The government corporatised the operations wing of DoT on 1 October 2000 and named it as Department of Telecommunication Services (DTS) which was later named as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). The proposal of raising the stake of foreign investors from 49% to 74% was rejected by the opposite political parties and leftist thinkers. Domestic business groups wanted the government to privatise VSNL. Finally in April 2002, the government decided to cut its stake of 53% to 26% in VSNL and to throw it open for sale to private enterprises. TATA finally took 25% stake in VSNL.[17]

This was a gateway to many foreign investors to get entry into the Indian Telecom Markets. After March 2000, the government became more liberal in making policies and issuing licences to private operators. The government further reduced licence fees for cellular service providers and increased the allowable stake to 74% for foreign companies. Because of all these factors, the service fees finally reduced and the call costs were cut greatly enabling every common middle-class family in India to afford a cell phone. Nearly 32 million handsets were sold in India. The data reveals the real potential for growth of the Indian mobile market.[25] Many private operators, such as Reliance Communications, Tata Indicom, Vodafone, Loop Mobile, Airtel, Idea etc., successfully entered the high potential Indian telecom market.

In March 2008 the total GSM and CDMA mobile subscriber base in the country was 375 million, which represented a nearly 50% growth when compared with previous year.[26] As the unbranded Chinese cell phones which do not have International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers pose a serious security risk to the country, Mobile network operators therefore suspended the usage of around 30 million mobile phones (about 8% of all mobiles in the country) by 30 April. Phones without valid IMEI cannot be connected to cellular operators.[27] 5–6 years the average monthly subscribers additions were around 0.05 to 0.1 million only and the total mobile subscribers base in December 2002 stood at 10.5 millions. However, after a number of proactive initiatives taken by regulators and licensors, the total number of mobile subscribers has increased rapidly to over 929 million subscribers as of May 2012.

India has opted for the use of both the GSM (global system for mobile communications) and CDMA (code-division multiple access) technologies in the mobile sector. In addition to landline and mobile phones, some of the companies also provide the WLL service. The mobile tariffs in India have also become lowest in the world. A new mobile connection can be activated with a monthly commitment of US$0.15 only. In 2005 alone additions increased to around 2 million per month in 2003–04 and 2004–05.


Major sectors of telecommunication industry in India are telephony, internet, Data centers and broadcasting.


Market share of major operators in India as on 29 February 2012
Market share of major operators in India as on 29 February 2012

The telephony segment is dominated by private-sector and two state-run businesses. Most companies were formed by a recent revolution and restructuring launched within a decade, directed by Ministry of Communications and IT, Department of Telecommunications and Minister of Finance. Since then, most companies gained 2G, 3G and 4G licences and engaged fixed-line, mobile and internet business in India. On landlines, intra-circle calls are considered local calls while inter-circle are considered long distance calls. Foreign Direct Investment policy which increased the foreign ownership cap from 49% to 74%.Now it is 100%. The Government is working to integrate the whole country in one telecom circle. For long distance calls, the area code prefixed with a zero is dialled first which is then followed by the number (i.e., to call Delhi, 011 would be dialled first followed by the phone number). For international calls, "00" must be dialled first followed by the country code, area code and local phone number. The country code for India is 91. Several international fibre-optic links include those to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Russia, and Germany. Some major telecom operators in India include Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel, BSNL, MTNL, Reliance Communications, TATA Teleservices, Infotel, MTS, Uninor, TATA DoCoMo, Videocon, Augere, Tikona Digital.

Fixed telephony

Until the New Telecom Policy was announced in 1999, only the Government-owned BSNL and MTNL were allowed to provide land-line phone services through copper wire in India with MTNL operating in Delhi and Mumbai and BSNL servicing all other areas of the country. Due to the rapid growth of the cellular phone industry in India, landlines are facing stiff competition from cellular operators. This has forced land-line service providers to become more efficient and improve their quality of service. Land-line connections are now also available on demand, even in high density urban areas. India has over 31 million main line customers.

Mobile telephony

Cellular phone tower atop the roof of a building
Typical signboards of STD booths (kiosks from where STD calls can be made) and internet kiosks in India
AIR Radio Tower

In August 1995, Chief Minister of West Bengal, Shri Jyoti Basu ushered in the cellphone revolution in India by making the first call to Union Telecom Minister Sukhram.[28] Sixteen years later 4th generation services were launched in Kolkata.[29]

With a subscriber base of more than 929 million, the Mobile telecommunications system in India is the second largest in the world and it was thrown open to private players in the 1990s. GSM was comfortably maintaining its position as the dominant mobile technology with 80% of the mobile subscriber market, but CDMA seemed to have stabilised its market share at 20% for the time being. By May 2012 the country had 929 million mobile subscribers, up from 350 million just 40 months earlier. The mobile market was continuing to expand at an annual rate in excess of 40% coming into 2010.

The country is divided into multiple zones, called circles (roughly along state boundaries). Government and several private players run local and long distance telephone services. Competition has caused prices to drop and calls across India are one of the cheapest in the world.[30] The rates are supposed to go down further with new measures to be taken by the Information Ministry.[31] In September 2004, the number of mobile phone connexions crossed the number of fixed-line connexions and presently dwarfs the wireline segment by a ratio of around 20:1. The mobile subscriber base has grown by a factor of over a hundred and thirty, from 5 million subscribers in 2001 to over 929 million subscribers as of May 2012. India primarily follows the GSM mobile system, in the 900 MHz band. Recent operators also operate in the 1800 MHz band. The dominant players are Airtel, Reliance Infocomm, Vodafone, Idea cellular and BSNL/MTNL. There are many smaller players, with operations in only a few states. International roaming agreements exist between most operators and many foreign carriers. The government allowed Mobile number portability (MNP) which enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one mobile network operator to another.[32] India is divided into 22 telecom circles:[33]
Telecom circle Wireline subscriber base in million(May 2012) Wireless subscriber base in million(May 2012) Teledensity (May 2012)
Andhra Pradesh 2.33 66.6 80.46
Assam 0.20 14.6 47.7
Bihar & Jharkhand 0.56 62.97 48.37
Delhi 2.9 42.95 239.91
Gujarat & Daman & Diu 1.82 54.32 92.56
Haryana 0.59 23.00 90.86
Himachal Pradesh 0.30 7.41 112.29
Jammu and Kashmir 0.20 6.57 56.92
Karnataka 2.48 56.63 98.22
Kerala & Lakshadweep 3.18 34.51 107.85
Kolkata 1.18 25.25 Not available
Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh 1.13 53.30 55.38
Maharashtra & Goa (excluding Mumbai ) 2.64 71.00 96.71
Mumbai* 3.0 35.93 Not available
North East ^** 0.25 8.76 64.74
Orissa 0.40 26.27 64.73
Punjab 1.44 31.17 110.22
Rajasthan 1.14 49.52 73.26
Tamil Nadu(including Chennai since 2005)[34] 3.16 78.96 118.29
Uttar Pradesh(East) 1.20 77.74 62.65(Combined)
Uttar Pradesh(West) & Uttarakhand 0.79 55.12 62.65(Combined)
West Bengal(excluding Kolkata) 0.62 46.79 80.56

^* Population statistics are available state-wise only. ^** North east circle includes Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, & Tripura ^*** West Bengal circle includes Andaman-Nicobar and Sikkim


Internet cafe in Varanasi, 2001

The history of the Internet in India started with launch of services by VSNL on 15 August 1995. They were able to add about 10,000 Internet users within 6 months.[35] However, for the next 10 years the Internet experience in the country remained less attractive with narrow-band connections having speeds less than 56 kbit/s (dial-up). In 2004, the government formulated its broadband policy which defined broadband as "an always-on Internet connection with download speed of 256 kbit/s or above."[36] From 2005 onward the growth of the broadband sector in the country accelerated, but remained below the growth estimates of the government and related agencies due to resource issues in last-mile access which were predominantly wired-line technologies. This bottleneck was removed in 2010 when the government auctioned 3G spectrum followed by an equally high profile auction of 4G spectrum that set the scene for a competitive and invigorated wireless broadband market. Now Internet access in India is provided by both public and private companies using a variety of technologies and media including dial-up (PSTN), xDSL, coaxial cable, Ethernet, FTTH, ISDN, HSDPA (3G), WiFi, WiMAX, etc. at a wide range of speeds and costs. As per IAMAI India will have the world's second largest number of Internet users with over 300 million by December 2014.[37]

According to the Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the Internet user base in the country stood at 190 million at the end of June, 2013.[4] As of October, 2013 report, it is over 205 million.[37] The number of broadband subscribers at the end of May 2013 was 15.19 million.[38] Cumulative Annual Growth rate (CAGR) of broadband during the five-year period between 2005 and 2010 was about 117 per cent.[36] DSL, while holding slightly more than 75% of the local broadband market, was steadily losing market share to other non-DSL broadband platforms, especially to wireless broadband.

There were 161 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offering broadband services in India as of 31 May 2013. The top five ISPs in terms subscriber base were BSNL (9.96 million), Bharti Airtel (1.40 million), MTNL (1.09 million), Hathway (0.36 million) and You Broadband (0.31 million).[38] Cyber cafes remain the major source of Internet access. In 2009, about 37 per cent of the users access the Internet from cyber cafes, 30 per cent from an office, and 23 per cent from home. However, the number of mobile Internet users increased rapidly from 2009 on and there were about 274 million mobile users at the end of September 2010, with a majority using 2G mobile networks.[36] Mobile Internet subscriptions as reported by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in March 2011 increased to 381 million.

One of the major issues facing the Internet segment in India is the lower average bandwidth of broadband connections compared to that of developed countries. According to 2007 statistics, the average download speed in India hovered at about 40 KB per second (256 kbit/s), the minimum speed set by TRAI, whereas the international average was 5.6 Mbit/s during the same period. In order to attend this infrastructure issue the government declared 2007 as "the year of broadband".[39][40] To compete with international standards of defining broadband speed the Indian Government has taken the aggressive step of proposing a $13 billion national broadband network to connect all cities, towns and villages with a population of more than 500 in two phases targeted for completion by 2012 and 2013. The network was supposed to provide speeds up to 10 Mbit/s in 63 metropolitan areas and 4 Mbit/s in an additional 352 cities. Also, the Internet penetration rate in India is one of the lowest in the world and only accounts for 8.4% of the population compared to the rate in OECD counties, where the average is over 50%.[8][41][42] Another issue is the digital divide where growth is biased in favour of urban areas; according to 2010 statistics, more than 75 per cent of the broadband connections in the country are in the top 30 cities.[36] Regulators have tried to boost the growth of broadband in rural areas by promoting higher investment in rural infrastructure and establishing subsidized tariffs for rural subscribers under the Universal service obligation scheme of the Indian government.

Wireless Internet

2nd Generation Internet is the most prevalent in India. Wireless ISPs in India use both CDMA and Edge technologies for 2G.

India's wireless Internet frequencies are:[43]

  • 2G : GSM 900 MHz, GSM 1800 MHz
  • 3G : UMTS 2100 MHz
  • 4G : TD-LTE 2300 MHz

Data centres

  • BSNL Internet Data Centers, in collaboration with Dimension Data[44]
  • Trimax IT Infrastructure & Services Limited - Tier III data centers in Mumbai and Bengaluru [45]
  • Sify Technologies Limited
  • CtrlS Datacenters Ltd
  • Tata Communications Limited
  • Netmagic Solutions
  • Reliance Datacenter
  • Web Werks IDC
  • Net4 Datacenter
  • RackBank Datacenter
  • GPX Global Systems Inc.


INSAT-1B satellite: Broadcasting sector in India is highly dependent on INSAT system.

Television broadcasting began in India in 1959 by Doordarshan, a state run medium of communication, and had slow expansion for more than two decades.[46] The policy reforms of the government in the 1990s attracted private initiatives in this sector, and since then, satellite television has increasingly shaped popular culture and Indian society. However, still, only the government owned Doordarshan has the licence for terrestrial television broadcast. Private companies reach the public using satellite channels; both cable television as well as DTH has obtained a wide subscriber base in India. In 2012, India had about 148 million TV homes of which 126 million has access to cable and satellite services.[47]

Following the economic reforms in the 1990s, satellite television channels from around the world—BBC, CNN, CNBC, and other private television channels gained a foothold in the country.[11] There are no regulations to control the ownership of satellite dish antennas and also for operating cable television systems in India, which in turn has helped for an impressive growth in the viewership. The growth in the number of satellite channels was triggered by corporate business houses such as Star TV group and Zee TV. Initially restricted to music and entertainment channels, viewership grew, giving rise to several channels in regional languages, especially Hindi. The main news channels available were CNN and BBC World. In the late 1990s, many current affairs and news channels sprouted, becoming immensely popular because of the alternative viewpoint they offered compared to Doordarshan. Some of the notable ones are Aaj Tak (run by the India Today group) and STAR News, CNN-IBN, Times Now, initially run by the NDTV group and their lead anchor, Prannoy Roy (NDTV now has its own channels, NDTV 24x7, NDTV Profit and NDTV India). Over the years, Doordarshan services also have grown from a single national channel to six national and eleven regional channels. Nonetheless, it has lost the leadership in market, though it underwent many phases of modernization in order to contain tough competition from private channels.[11]

Today, television is the most penetrative media in India with industry estimates indicating that there are over 554 million TV consumers, 462 million with satellite connexions, compared to other forms of mass media such as radio or internet.[48] Government of India has used the popularity of TV and radio among rural people for the implementation of many social-programmes including that of mass-education. On 16 November 2006, the Government of India released the FM broadcasting licence. Community Radio is allowed 100 watts of Effective Radiated Power (ERP) with a maximum tower height of 30 metres. The licence is valid for five years and one organisation can only get one licence, which is non-transferable and to be used for community development purposes.

Next-generation networks (NGN)

Historically, the role of telecommunication has evolved from that of plain information exchange to a multi-service field, with Value Added Services (VAS) integrated with various discrete networks like PSTN, PLMN, Internet Backbone etc. However, with decreasing ARPU and increasing demand for VAS has become a compelling reason for the service providers to think of the convergence of these parallel networks into a single core network with service layers separated from network layer.[49] Next-generation networking is such a convergence concept which according to ITU-T is:[50]
A next-generation network (NGN) is a packet-based network which can provide services including Telecommunication Services and able to make use of multiple broadband, quality of Service-enabled transport technologies and in which service-related functions are independent from underlying transport-related technologies. It offers unrestricted access by users to different service providers. It supports generalized mobility which will allow consistent and ubiquitous provision of services to users.

Access network: The user can connect to the IP-core of NGN in various ways, most of which use the standard Internet Protocol (IP). User terminals such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and computers can register directly on NGN-core, even when they are roaming in another network or country. The only requirement is that they can use IP and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). Fixed access (e.g., Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), cable modems, Ethernet), mobile access (e.g. W-CDMA, CDMA2000, GSM, GPRS) and wireless access (e.g.WLAN, WiMAX) are all supported. Other phone systems like plain old telephone service and non-compatible VoIP systems, are supported through gateways. With the deployment of the NGN, users may subscribe to many simultaneous access-providers providing telephony, internet or entertainment services. This may provide end-users with virtually unlimited options to choose between service providers for these services in NGN environment.[49]

The hyper-competition in telecom market, which was effectively caused by the introduction of Universal Access Service (UAS) licence in 2003 became much tougher after 3G and 4G competitive auction. About 670,000 route-kilometer (419,000-mile) of optical fibres has been laid in India by the major operators, including in the financially nonviable rural areas and the process continues. Keeping in mind the viability of providing services in rural areas, the government of India also took a proactive role to promote the NGN implementation in the country; an expert committee called NGN eCO was constituted in order to deliberate on the licensing, interconnection and Quality of Service (QoS) issues related to NGN and it submitted its report on 24 August 2007. Telecom operators found the NGN model advantageous, but huge investment requirements have prompted them to adopt a multi-phase migration and they have already started the migration process to NGN with the implementation of IP-based core-network.[49]

Recent government policies and growth targets

  • All villages shall receive telecom facilities by the end of 2002.
  • A Communication Convergence Bill introduced in the Parliament on 31 August 2001 is before the Standing Committee of Parliament on Telecom and IT.
  • National Long Distance Service (NLD) is opened for unrestricted entry.
  • The International Long Distance Services (ILDS) have been opened to competition.
  • The basic services are open to competition.
  • In addition to the existing three, a fourth cellular operator, one each in four metros and thirteen circles, has been permitted. Cellular operators have been permitted to provide all types of mobile services including voice and non-voice messages, data services and PCOs utilising any type of network equipment, including circuit and/or package switches that meet certain required standards.
  • Policies allowing private participation have been announced as per the New Telecom Policy (NTP), 1999 in several new services, which include Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) Service, digital Public Mobile Radio Trunked Service (PMRTS) and Voice Mail/ Audiotex/ Unified Messaging Services.
  • Wireless Local Loop (WLL) has been introduced to provide telephone connexions in urban, semi-urban and rural areas promptly.
  • Two telecom PSUs, VSNL and HTL have been disinvested.
  • Steps are being taken to fulfill Universal Service Obligation (USO), funding, and administration.
  • A decision to permit Community Phone Service has been announced.
  • Multiple Fixed Service Providers (FSPs) licensing guidelines were announced.
  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been allowed to set up International Internet Gateways, both Satellite and Landing stations for submarine optical fibre cables.
  • Two categories of infrastructure providers have been allowed to provide end-to-end bandwidth and dark fibre, right of way, towers, duct space etc.
  • Guidelines have been issued by the Government to open up Internet telephony (IP).
  • National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), a project aimed to ensure broadband connectivity to over two lakh (200,000) gram panchayats of India by 2016.

Regulatory environment

LIRNEasia's Telecommunications Regulatory Environment (TRE) index, which summarises stakeholders' perception on certain TRE dimensions, provides insight into how conducive the environment is for further development and progress. The most recent survey was conducted in July 2008 in eight Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines. The tool measured seven dimensions: i) market entry; ii) access to scarce resources; iii) interconnection; iv) tariff regulation; v) anti-competitive practices; and vi) universal services; vii) quality of service, for the fixed, mobile and broadband sectors.

The results for India, point out to the fact that the stakeholders perceive the TRE to be most conducive for the mobile sector followed by fixed and then broadband. Other than for Access to Scarce Resources the fixed sector lags behind the mobile sector. The fixed and mobile sectors have the highest scores for Tariff Regulation. Market entry also scores well for the mobile sector as competition is well entrenched with most of the circles with 4–5 mobile service providers. The broadband sector has the lowest score in the aggregate. The low penetration of broadband of mere 3.87 against the policy objective of 9 million at then end of 2007 clearly indicates that the regulatory environment is not very conducive.[51]

In 2013 the home ministry stated that legislation must ensure that law enforcement agencies are empowered to intercept communications.[52]

Revenue and growth

The total revenue in the telecom service sector was 867.2 billion (US$14.0 billion) in 2005–06 as against 716.74 billion (US$11.6 billion) in 2004–2005, registering a growth of 21% with estimated revenue of FY'2011 of 8.35 billion (US$140 million). The total investment in the telecom services sector reached 2006 billion (US$32.5 billion) in 2005–06, up from 1788 billion (US$29.0 billion) in the previous fiscal.[53] Telecommunication is the lifeline of the rapidly growing Information Technology industry. Internet subscriber base has risen to more than a 121 million in 2011.[54] Out of this 11.47 million were broadband connexions. More than a billion people use the Internet globally. Under the Bharat Nirman Programme, the Government of India will ensure that 66,822 revenue villages in the country, which have not yet been provided with a Village Public Telephone (VPT), will be connected. However doubts have been raised about what it would mean for the poor in the country.[55]

It is difficult to ascertain fully the employment potential of the telecom sector but the enormity of the opportunities can be gauged from the fact that there were 3.7 million Public Call Offices in December 2005[56] up from 2.3 million in December 2004.

The Total Revenue of Indian Telecom Services company is likely to exceed 2000 billion (US$32 billion) ( US$44 Bn approx) for FY 11–12 based on FY 10–11 nos and latest quarterly results. These are consolidated numbers including foreign operation of Bharti Airtel. The major contributions to this revenue are as follows:[57]

  • Airtel 65060 (US$1,100)
  • Reliance Communications 31468 (US$510)
  • Idea 16936 (US$270)
  • Tata Communications 11931 (US$190)
  • MTNL 4380 (US$71)
  • TTML 2248 (US$36)
  • BSNL 32045 (US$520)
  • Vodafone India 18376 (US$300)
  • TataTeleservice 9200 (US$150)
  • Aircel 7968 (US$130)
  • SSTL 600 (US$9.70)
  • Uninor 660 (US$11)
  • Loop 560 (US$9.10)
  • Stel 60 (97¢ US)
  • HFCL 204 (US$3.30)
  • Videocon Telecom 254 (US$4.10)
  • DB Etisalat/ Allianz 47 (76¢ US)
  • Grand Total 2019 billion (US$33 billion)


Submarine cables

  • LOCOM linking Chennai to Penang, Malaysia
  • India-UAE cable linking Mumbai to Al Fujayrah, UAE.
  • SEA-ME-WE 2 (South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 2)
  • SEA-ME-WE 3 (South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 3) – Landing sites at Cochin and Mumbai. Capacity of 960 Gbit/s.
  • SEA-ME-WE 4 (South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 4) – Landing sites at Mumbai and Chennai. Capacity of 1.28 Tbit/s.
  • Fibre-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG-FEA) with a landing site at Mumbai (2000). Initial design capacity 10 Gbit/s, upgraded in 2002 to 80 Gbit/s, upgraded to over 1 Tbit/s (2005).
  • TIISCS (Tata Indicom India-Singapore Cable System), also known as TIC (Tata Indicom Cable), Chennai to Singapore. Capacity of 5.12 Tbit/s.
  • i2i – Chennai to Singapore. Capacity of 8.4 Tbit/s.
  • SEACOM From Mumbai to the Mediterranean, via South Africa. It joins with SEA-ME-WE 4 off the west coast of Spain to carry traffic onward to London (2009). Capacity of 1.28 Tbit/s.
  • I-ME-WE (India-Middle East-Western Europe) with two landing sites at Mumbai (2009). Capacity of 3.84 Tbit/s.
  • EIG (Europe-India Gateway), landing at Mumbai (due Q2 2010).
  • MENA (Middle East North Africa).
  • TGN-Eurasia (Announced) Landing at Mumbai (due 2010?), Capacity of 1.28 Tbit/s
  • TGN-Gulf (Announced) Landing at Mumbai (due 2011?), Capacity Unknown.

See also


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  2. ^ a b c """Press Release on "Telecom Subscription Data as on 31st December, 2013. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  3. ^ "India need umbrella body on telecom". Economictimes. 16 August 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b "Highlights of Telecom Subscription Data as on 31 May 2012". TRAI. 4 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Dharmakumar, Rohin (19 October 2011). "India Telcos: Battle of the Titans". Forbes. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  7. ^ Kannan, Shilpa (7 April 2010). "India's 3G licence bidders bank on big changes". BBC News. 
  8. ^ a b "Internet Usage in Asia". International Telecommunications Unit: Asian Internet Users. ITU. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  9. ^ Internet subscriber base in India may reach 150 mn: Report
  10. ^ "Telecom sector revenue grows 7% in FY '11". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 21 March 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c d Raju Thomas G. C. Stanley Wolpert, ed. Encyclopedia of India (vol. 3). Thomson Gale. pp. 105–107.  
  12. ^ "Public Works Department". Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  13. ^ Vatsal Goyal, Premraj Suman. "The Indian Telecom Industry". IIM Calcutta. 
  14. ^ "History of Calcutta telephones". Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  15. ^ "VSNL starts India's first Internet service today". 14 August 1995. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  16. ^ Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (2008), India, Encyclopædia Britannica
  17. ^ a b c d Dash, Kishore. "Veto Players and the Deregulation of State-Owned Enterprises: The Case of Telecommunications in India" (PDF). Retrieved 26 June 2008. 
  18. ^ a b Vanita Kohli (14 June 2006). The Indian Media Business. SAGE. pp. 189–.  
  19. ^ Marcus F. Franda (2002). China and India Online: Information Technology Politics and Diplomacy in the World's Two Largest Nations. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 137–.  
  20. ^ J.G. Valan Arasu (1 April 2008). Globalisation And Infrastructural Development In India. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. pp. 105–.  
  21. ^ Rafiq Dossani (1 July 2002). Telecommunications Reform in India. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 106–.  
  22. ^ "TDSAT - profile". Archived from the original on 8 May 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  23. ^ "TRAI Act". Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  24. ^ "Department of Telecommunications Ministry of Communications & IT". 
  25. ^ "Draft Information Paper on Dial-up Internet Access" (PDF). Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  26. ^ "GSM, CDMA players maintain subscriber growth momentum-Telecom-News By Industry-News-The Economic Times". 18 March 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  27. ^ "TTC DOT Directs ban on usage of Chinese", Yahoo! News
  28. ^ "Kolkata connects India to 4G era". The Times of India. 11 April 2012. 
  29. ^ "4G launched in Kolkota". The Times of India. Times of India. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  30. ^ "The death of STD". The Indian Express. 12 October 2006. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  31. ^ "Free broadband, rent-free landlines likely: Maran". 31 December 2004. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  32. ^ "Mobile number portability: Switch tele operator!". 20 January 2011. 
  33. ^ "Subscriber statistics" (PDF).  
  34. ^ "Chennai metro merged with Tamilnadu". Department of Telecom, India. pp. Footnote 7. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  35. ^ Sursh K. Chouhan, T. A. V. Murthy. "Digital divide and India". Shodhganga@INFLIBNET Centre. p. 384. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  36. ^ a b c d "Broadband status in India". TRAI. p. 21. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  37. ^ a b
  38. ^ a b Miglani, Chhavi (17 August 2013). "Reliance Adds Maximum Number of Subscribers in May 2013; BSNL is the Top ISP : TRAI". Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  39. ^ "Broadband speeds around the world". BBC News. 2 December 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2007. 
  40. ^ "India Seeks Access to the Broadband Highway". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  41. ^ "OECD Broadband Portal". 
  42. ^ "India ranks 115th in net connection speed" (doc). Retrieved 1 April 2009. 
  43. ^ India's Network bands - gsmarena
  44. ^ BSNL Internet Data Center, website, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and Dimension Data, retrieved 11 September 2013.
  45. ^
  46. ^ Kaminsky, Arnold P.; Long, Roger D. (30 September 2011). India Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic. ABC-CLIO. pp. 684–692.  
  47. ^ "India overview". TAM Media Research. 
  48. ^ "Indian Readership Survey 2012 Q1 : Topline Findings" (PDF). Media Research Users Council. Growth: Literacy & Media Consumption. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  49. ^ a b c "Consultation paper on NGN licensing". TRAI. 
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  51. ^ Payal Malik. "Telecom Regulatory and Policy Environment in India: Results and Analysis of the 2008 TRE Survey".  
  52. ^ "Home ministry objects to proposed telecom security policy", The Times of India (PTI), 15 September 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  53. ^ Press Release no. 60/2006 issued on 28 June 2006 by TRAI
  54. ^ "Is 2012 the year for India's internet?". BBC News. 3 January 2012. 
  55. ^ "Hindu Net". Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  56. ^ "TRAI releases Quarterly Performance Indicators of Telecom Services for the quarter ending December, 2005", Press Release No. 35/2006, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, 10 April 2006
  57. ^ Contributed by Sanjay Banka, FCA in "Telecommunication Sector in India – An Analysis", N. Swapna, Proceedings of the MPGI National Multi Conference "Advancement in Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering 7–8 April 2012", International Journal of Computer Applications (IJCA), page 25

External links

  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
  • Department of Telecommuincations, Government of India
  • Wireless Planning & Coordination Wing
  • Cellular Operators Association of India
  • Internet Usage Stats and Telecommunications of India
  • Accounting & Reporting in Telecom Industry
  • Mergers & Acquisitions in Indian Telecom Industry
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