On average, India's mobile operators collectively added more than 20,000 new customers every hour during 2009. EVERY HOUR!!!

February 1, 2010

3 Min Read
India Ends 2009 on a Mobile High

A mind-boggling 19.1 million new mobile lines were activated in India during December 2009 -- a new record -- leaving the country's mobile carriers with a total of 525.15 million connections at the close of last year, according to the latest data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) .

This means India's mobile operators collectively added a staggering 178.26 million new lines during 2009, having ended 2008 with 346.89 million mobile users. (See IndiaWatch: Mobile Nears 347M Subs.)

So, on average, India's mobile carriers added 14.86 million new connections per month, or more than 488,000 each day of the year.

And if you really want to know how many that is per hour, it's 20,349. (You can work out the per-minute figure yourselves. And if you're wondering about the per-second figure, call a therapist...)

Anyway, the point is, a lot of people in India got a new mobile connection in 2009.

The ramp in mobile users, offset only a smidgen by a tiny fall (100,000) in the number of fixed line users to 37.06 million, gave India an aggregate of 562.21 million telephony lines. That, in turn, gives the country of more than 1.1 billion people a teledensity of 47.89 percent.

Yet again, Tata Teleservices Ltd. added the most new customers, signing up nearly 3.34 million new customers, or 17.5 percent of December's mobile additions. Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), Reliance Communications Ltd. , and Vodafone India were the next biggest winners, all adding between 2.8 million and 2.9 million new lines each.

And if Tata performs as well in January, and Idea Cellular Ltd. has another disappointing month -- just 1.7 million new customers -- we can expect to see Tata Teleservices usurp IDEA as India's fifth-biggest mobile operator. It's hard to see how that scenario is going to be avoided, so expect some noise from Tata pretty soon.

Table 1: India's Mobile Operators by Subscribers, December 2009

Nov 2009

Dec 2009

Additions during December

Bharti Airtel

116 million

118.9 million

2.9 million

Reliance Communications

91 million

93.8 million

2.8 million

Vodafone Essar

88.6 million

91.4 million

2.8 million


60.8 million

62.9 million

2.1 million

Idea Cellular

55.9 million

57.6 million

1.7 million

Tata Teleservices

54 million

57.3 million

3.3 million


29.4 million

31 million

1.6 million


4.82 million

4.88 million

0.06 million

Loop Telecom

2.6 million

2.65 million

0.05 million

Sistema Shyam

2.65 million

3.05 million

0.4 million

HFCL Infotel

0.34 million

0.34 million

Minor decrease

Total mobile lines activated

506 million

525.15 million

19.1 million

Source: TRAI

It's notable that India's rural and smaller urban areas are now key drivers of mobile demand. The country's telecom "circles," or service areas, are split into four categories: Metro circles (the big cities); "A" circles (include sizable cities); "B" circles (include smaller urban areas and towns); and "C" circles (rural areas). (See A Guide to India's Telecom Market.)

According to TRAI, of the 19.1 million new mobile lines activated during December, more than 7.5 million were in "B" circles and nearly 3.2 million in "C" circles. The "A" circles contributed 6.2 million, while the saturated Metro areas added fewer than 2.2 million.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like