For the past decade or so, telecommunication activities have gained momentum in India. Efforts have been made from both governmental and non-governmental platforms to enhance the infrastructure. The idea is to help modern telecommunication technology penetrate India’s socio-culturally diverse society, and to transform it into a nation of technology aware people.
The total number of telephones in the country crossed the 300 million mark on June 18 2008 The overall tele-density has increased to 26.89% in June 2008.Telecom Regulatory Authority of India,Information note to the Press (Press Release No. 61 / 2007), 20 Jun 2007 In the wireless segment, 8.77 million subscribers have been added in January 2008 while 8.11 million subscribers were added in December 2007. The total wireless subscribers (GSM, CDMA & WLL (F)) base is more than 270 million now. The wireline segment subscriber base stood at 39.22 million with a decline of 0.03 million in January 2008.
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 was only around 80,000. Even after independence, growth was extremely slow. The number of telephones grew leisurely to 980,000 in 1971, 2.15 million in 1981 and 5.07 million in 1991.
The Indian government was composed of many factions (parties) which had different ideologies. Some of them were willing to throw open the market to foreign players (the centrists) and others wanted the government to regulate infrastructure and restrict the involvement of foreign players. Due to this political background it was very difficult to bring about liberalization in telecommunications.
Liberalization 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 opposition from leaders of the opposite political party.During this period, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, many public sector organizations were set up like the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) , VSNL and MTNL. Many technological developments took place in this regime but still foreign players were not allowed to participate in the telecommunications business.
The demand for telephones was ever increasing. It was during this period that the P.N 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. They were also successful in establishing joint ventures between state owned telecom companies and international players. But still complete ownership of facilities was restricted only to the government owned organizations.
During this period, the World Bank and ITU had advised the Indian Government to liberalize long distance services in order 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 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.For cellular service two service providers were allowed per circle and a 15 years license was given to each provider.
After 1995 the government set up TRAI [Telecom Regulatory Authority of India] which reduced the interference of Government in deciding tariffs and policy making. The DoT opposed this. The political powers changed in 1999 and the new government was more pro-reforms and introduced better liberalization policies.
After March 2000, the government became more liberal in making policies and issuing licenses to private operators. The government further reduced license fees 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.
Growth was tardy in the early years because of the high price of hand sets as well as the high tariff structure of mobile telephones. The New Telecom Policy in 1999, the industry heralded several pro consumer initiatives.The number of mobile phones added throughout the country in 2003 was 16 million, followed by 22 million in 2004, 32 million in 2005 and 65 million in 2006. The only country with more mobile phones than India with 246 million mobile phones is China – 408 million.
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 phone|mobile]sector.
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$5 only. In 2005 alone 32 million handsets were sold in India.
Indian telecom networks are not so intensive as developed country’s telecom networks and India's teledensity is low only in rural areas. 670,000 route kilometers (419,000 miles) of optical fibres has been laid in India by the major operators, even in remote areas and the process continues. BSNL alone, has laid optical fibre to 30,000 Telephone Exchanges out of their 35,000 Exchanges. Fibre network can be easily converted to Next Generation network and then used for delivering multiple services at cheap cost.
Telecommunication is the lifeline of the rapidly growing Information Technology industry. Internet subscriber base has risen to 6.94 million in 2005- 2006. Out of this 1.35 million were broadband connections.
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.
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 up from 2.3 million in December 2004.
The value added services (VAS) market within the mobile industry in India has the potential to grow from $500 million in 2006 to a whopping $10 billion by 2009.
Cellphones: 305.24 million (August 2008)
Land Lines: 38.63 million (August 2008)
Yearly Cellphone Addition: 83 million (2007)
Monthly Cellphone Addition: 9.16 million (August 2008)
Teledensity: 29.83% (August 2008)
Projected teledensity: 500 million, 40% of population by 2010.
Broadband connection: 4.73 million (August 2008)
Telephone system: The Mobile telecommunications system in India is the second largest in the world and it was thrown open to private players in the 1990s. 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.
Landlines: Landline service in India is primarily run by BSNL/MTNL and Reliance Infocomm though there are several other private players too. Landlines are facing stiff competition from mobile telephones. The competition has forced the landline services to become more efficient. The landline network quality has improved.
Mobile Cellular: The mobile service has seen phenomenal growth since 2000. In September 2004, the number of mobile phone connections have crossed fixed-line connections. Currently there are an estimated 201.29 million mobile phone users in India compared to 39.73 million fixed line subscribers. 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.
Dialling System: On landlines, intra circle calls are considered local calls while inter circle are considered long distance calls. For long distance calls, you dial the area code prefixed with a zero (e.g. For calling Delhi, you would dial 011-XXXX XXXX). For international calls, you would dial "00" and the country code+area code+number. The country code for India is 91.
Call Rates Slashed: Communication rates in India fell sharply after the year 2000 when infrastructure improvements and entry of many major players made Indian Telecom a highly competitive sector.
Internet Users: Number of Internet users in India is the 4th largest in the world. Internet population is expected to grow to 100 million users by 2007. Though the number of internet users is high, the penetration level is still lower than most countries across the globe.
BSNL, Sify, MTNL, STPI, Airtel, Netcom, Reliance and Hathway are some of the major ISPs in India. TRAI has defined broadband as 256 kbit/s or higher. However, many ISPs advertise their service as broadband but don't offer the suggested speeds. Broadband in India is more expensive as compared to Western Europe/UK and USA.
After economic liberalization in 1992, many private ISPs have entered the market, many with their own local loop and gateway infrastructures. The telecom services market is regulated by TRAI.
Because of the increase in ISPs and the quality of service Qos, It became cheaper from around the world.
Airtel and BSNL have launched 8 Mbit/s broadband internet services in selected areas recently . For home users , the maximum speed for unlimited downloads is 1 Mbit/s , available for USD 60.
Radio broadcast stations: Amplitude modulation(AM) 153, Frequency modulation[FM] 91,shortwave 68 (1998)
Radios:116 million (1997)
Television terrestrial broadcast stations: 562 (of which 82 stations have 1 kW or greater power and 480 stations have less than 1 kW of power) (1997)
Televisions:110 million (2006)
In India, only the government owned Doordarshan (Door = Distant = Tele, Darshan = Vision) is allowed to broadcast terrestrial television signals. It initially had one major National channel [DD National] and a Metro channel in some of the larger cities.
There are no regulations against ownership of satellite dish antennas, or operation of cable television systems, which led to an explosion of viewership and channels, led by the Star TV group and Zee TV. Initially restricted to music and entertainment channels, viewership grew, giving rise to several channels in regional languages and many in the national language, Hindi. In the late 1990s, many current affairs and news channels sprouted, becoming immensely popular because of the alternative viewpoint they offered compared to Doordarshan.
Here is a reasonably comprehensive List of Indian television stations.
Internet Users:60,000,000 (September 2007). Source: Internet World Stats
Broadband Subscribers:Broadband in India is defined as 256 kbit/s and above by the government regulator. Total subscribers were 2.3 million (April 2007). Source: TRAI
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) & Hosts:86,571 (2004). Source: CIA World FactBook
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