India's Mobile Market Hits 617M

There's still no sign of a slowdown in India's mobile subscriber growth, with the sector adding 16.3 million new connections in May to take the total to 617.5 million, according to the latest statistics from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) .

India now boasts a mobile teledensity of 52.3 percent, and an overall teledensity (fixed and mobile) of nearly 55.4 percent.

Only two years ago, at the end of May 2008, India had 272.7 million mobile users. (See India Adds 8.6M Mobile Subs in May.)

That means the market has grown by 344.8 million during the past 24 months, an average of nearly 14.4 million new mobile lines each month.

It seems unlikely that staggering rate of growth will diminish any time soon, as there are hundreds of millions of people (mostly in rural areas) still without a mobile line, and a number of new 2G operators are still in the early stages of entering the market, making it even more competitive.

In addition, the big 3G customer landgrab is yet to come, as the seven operators that recently bagged 3G spectrum in the recent auction will not get their hands on their new airwaves until September. That's setting up 2011 to be the first full year of intense next-generation mobile competition. (See India's 3G Auction Ends, Raises $14.6B.)

In the 2G market, though, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) still leads the way. It added the most new customers in May, activating 3 million new connections. It now has 133.6 million mobile customers, giving it a market share of 21.64 percent.

Reliance Communications Ltd. added 2.82 million new mobile customers in May, taking its total to almost 108 million, for a 17.48 percent market share.

There are currently 15 mobile operators in India, with Videocon and Etisalat DB the most recent new entrants. Many believe that market consolidation is inevitable, though some of India's merger and acquisition rules may need to be relaxed before the number of players is reduced. (See Easy on the M&A.)

Table 1: India Mobile Operator Market Share, May 2010
Mobile subs at end of May 2010 Market share
Bharti Airtel 133.62 million 21.64%
Reliance Communications 107.97 million 17.48%
Vodafone Essar 106.35 million 17.22%
BSNL 71.69 million 11.61%
Tata Teleservices 70.21 million 11.37%
Idea Cellular 66.73 million 10.81%
Aircel 40.01 million 6.49%
MTNL 5.17 million 0.84%
Uninor 5.01 million 0.81%
Sistema Shyam (MTS India) 4.64 million 0.75%
Loop Mobile 2.91 million 0.47%
Videocon 1.39 million 0.23%
S Tel 1.23 million 0.20%
HFCL 0.52 million 0.08%
Etisalat DB 0.01 million 0.002%
Total 617.53 million 100%
Source: TRAI

— Gagandeep Kaur, India Editor, Light Reading

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