December 2008

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Worldwide Mobile Subscribers to Reach 4 Billion by Late 2008

International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré speaking recently at the high-level events on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) announced in New York that worldwide mobile cellular subscribers are likely to reach the 4 billion mark before the end of this year.

Since the turn of the century, the growth of mobile cellular subscribers has been impressive, with year-on-year growth averaging 24 per cent between 2000 and 2008. While in 2000, mobile penetration stood at only 12 per cent, it surpassed the 50 per cent mark by early 2008. It is estimated to reach about 61 per cent by the end of 2008.

ITU further highlights that despite high growth rates in the mobile sector, major differences in mobile penetration rates remain between regions and within countries.

The impressive growth in the number of mobile cellular subscribers is mainly due to developments in some of the world’s largest markets. The BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China are expected to have an increasingly important impact in terms of population, resources and global GDP share. These economies alone are expected to account for over 1.3 billion mobile subscribers by the end of 2008.

China surpassed the 600 million mark by mid-2008, representing by far the world’s largest mobile market. India had some 296 million mobile subscribers by end July 2008 but with a relatively low penetration rate of about 20 per cent, India offers great potential for growth. Market liberalization has played a key role in spreading mobile telephony by driving competition and bringing down prices. India’s mobile operators increasingly compete for low-income customers and Average-Revenue-Per-User in India has reached around USD 7, one of the lowest in the world.

3G Spectrum Allotment to be Completed by Jan.’09

At a curtain raiser ceremony for the forthcoming India telecom 2008 event in New Delhi recently, the Minister of Communications and IT, Thiru A. Raja has reiterated that the process of allotment of spectrum for 3G will be completed by January 2009. The Minister further added that although the global economy is currently passing through the recession phase, its impact has been comparatively less on telecom sector. Infact he re-assured that India is well poised to surpass the target of 500 million connections well before the timeline of 2010.

He also regretted the fact that the telecom growth in rural areas has not kept pace with that in urban areas. Raja said, the government is working hard to correct this imbalance by shifting focus to small towns and rural areas, but it has still to go a long way in bridging the rural urban divide. He said, the government’s decision to allot licences to more operators was directed at raising competition, lowering tariffs and enhancing rural tele-density.

He further disclosed that the government has set a target to provide broadband connectivity in all Gram Panchayats, Government Higher Secondary Schools and Public Health Centers by the end of year 2012. He hoped that the current provision of over 7000 mobile towers and future projects of over 11000 towers with Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) support will drastically change the mobile telephony scenario in rural India.

Seconding Raja’s opinion, the Minister of State for Communications and IT, Jyotiraditya Scindia remarked that connecting rural India is the next biggest opportunity before the Telecom sector. He called upon the industry to play a catalytic role in taking the telecom revolution to rural and remote areas. The Minister asked for special emphasis on manufacturing and Research and Development and innovative business models to achieve the main objective of higher rural tele-density.

TRAI’s New Recommendations

On “Issues relating to entry of certain entities into Broadcasting and Distribution activities” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently issued recommendations.

With regards to the question of entry of State Governments, urban and rural local bodies, etc. into broadcasting activities, the Authority has taken note of the fact that at present these entities have not been permitted to enter into broadcasting activities.TRAI has recommended that the aspirations of the State Governments, as regards broadcasting, should be adequately met by Prasar Bharati and by imposing certain public service broadcasting obligations on private broadcasters as indicated below.

TRAI has recommended that certain public service broadcasting obligations be imposed on the broadcasters in the country. The preparation of content for public service broadcasting may be done by individuals including private broadcasters, NGOs, social action groups, etc., in addition to Prasar Bharati, DAVP, State Governments and their organs. The Government of India (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) may set up a regular body to approve and certify programmes as being fit for broadcast as part of the public service broadcasting (PSB) obligation.

In order to provide funds for such public service broadcasting programmes, TRAI has further recommended to establish a Fund, to be known as the Public Service Broadcasting Obligation Fund, on lines similar to the Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund in the telecom sector, and imposing an annual Public Service Broadcasting Obligation levy on the private broadcasters in the country and a predetermined share from the percentage of gross revenue being paid by the identified stakeholders in the broadcasting sector.

In regards to the entry of State Governments into the distribution platform such as cable TV, DTH, etc., the Authority has noted that there are already 6 DTH operators, about 6000 multisystem operators and nearly 60,000 cable operators. Such being the case, and in the interest of fair competition, level playing field, and also considering the need to ensure proper enforcement mechanism equally applicable to all the players in the field, TRAI has recommended that the State Governments and their organs should stay away from distribution activities. Suitable provisions for exit route within three to four years have been provided wherever state governments and their organs have entered such distribution activity.

Tata Teleservices Invests INR 100 crore in Assam

Tata Teleservices Limited (TTSL), has launched its telecom operation in the Assam circle, under its brand Tata Indicom. The company has introduced a range of products which include prepaid and postpaid mobile services, Photon-High Speed Internet Access, Fixed Wireless Telephony under the brand name Walky Talky and a host of Value Added Services.

To increase its national footprint TTSL has invested over INR 100 crore, in Assam circle establishing a pan India network with 20 circles. During the current stage of launch, TTSL will provide seamless coverage in 31 towns of Assam and will shortly be launching services in the North East region.

On the occasion of launching services in Assam, Tata Indicom introduced North East Corridor Starter Pack just for INR 199. Subscribers in the region can now make STD calls across Assam for just 50 paisa per minute.

Tata Indicom has also announced the launch of Photon – High- Speed Internet Access service with speeds 10 times faster than any existing mobile wireless technology. The Photon service can be accessed using two devices – Router for Small & Medium Enterprises and Business Enterprises and the USB Modem, for individual users and the Small Office Home Office (SOHO) segment. The Photon Internet access service allows customers to be connected—not only for mails, but also for downloads, large files uploads, photo sharing, send & receive SMS and is compatible to both laptops and desktop PCs.

Tata Indicom product sand services will be available at exclusive Tata Indicom Showrooms and several retail selling points (RSP’s) across the state. Tata Teleservices has already installed over 134 cell sites in the first phase of its network roll out itself.

Tata Indicom has deployed a state-of-the-art CDMA network in the Assam Circle which allows superior voice quality and data connectivity. The CDMA advantage ensures improved call quality with better and consistent sound, minimum call drops, enhanced privacy, improved coverage and network efficiency amongst others.

10.29 Million More Telephone Connections Added

As per the data disclosed by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) another 10.29 million telephone connections  (Wireline and Wireless)  have been added during October 2008 as compared to 9.79 million connections added in September 2008. The total number of telephone connections reaches 363.95 million at the end of October 2008 as compared to 353.66 million in September 2008. With this growth, the overall tele-density has reached 31.50% at the end of October 2008 as against 30.64% in September 2008.

In the wireless subscribers (GSM, CDMA & WLL(F)) total base stood at 325.73 million at the end of October 2008. A total of 10.42 million wireless subscribers have been added during the month of October 2008 as against 10.07 million wireless subscribers added during the month of September 2008.

Whereas in the wireline segment, the subscriber base has decreased to 38.22 million in the month of October 2008 as against 38.35 million subscribers in September 2008 registering a drop of 0.13 million.

Jataayu’s  Mobile Browsing

Jataayu, a Bharti Telesoft enterprise, announced the launch of Zing, its mobile browsing solution at AfricaCOM in Cape Town, South Africa. By bringing a full web experience to a wide range of mobile users, Zing will drive mobile Internet usage and significantly enhance data revenues for operators and content providers globally.

The new Zing mobile browsing solution provides a full web experience across the entire range of java-enabled handsets – from entry-level to smart phones. It improves page-rendering speeds by up to 100%, providing fast Internet access, which to date has not been experienced by mobile web users. With Zing, users get more content for the same amount of data usage. Thanks to Zing’s impressive navigation features, mobile users enjoy a simplified browsing experience, helping operators create customer stickiness and generating increased mobile Internet usage.

Thiru a raja happy with telecom growth

At the Economic Editors’ Conference 2008 recently, Union Ministry of Communications & Information Technology reiterated that the proactive policies of the Department of Telecommunications have resulted in an unprecedented growth of the telecom sector. The Department of Telecommunications has been able to provide state of the art world class infrastructure at globally competitive tariffs and reduce the digital divide by extending connectivity to the unconnected areas. The last four years have seen renowned telecom companies setting up their manufacturing bases in India.

The Indian telecom sector is currently witnessing a resurgent growth and has emerged as the fastest growing telecom market in the world with the addition of over 8 million subscribers per month. Handsets are being sold at a price, which are within the reach of the common man which in turn has made India one of the most sought after telecom manufacturing destinations.

Regarding the performance of the telecom sector the figures disclosed are as follows: the total number of telephone connections have gone up from 76.5 million in March 2004 to 353.61 million
in September, 2008; wreless connections have gone up form 35.6 million in March 2004 to 315.13 million in September, 2008; rural telephone have gone up from 12.2 million in March 2004 to 104.83 million in September 2008, while urban telephone have gone up from 64.3 million in March 2004 to 248.83 million in September 2008.

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