Mobile services

India's Mobile Subs Base Nears 1 Billion

With almost 944 million activated mobile lines at the end of December 2014, the Indian telecoms market is all set to reach the 1 billion milestone soon.

Collectively, India's service providers added 6.92 million new subscribers in the month of December 2014, according to the latest statistics published by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) .

At that rate of growth, the number of SIM cards in circulation in India should top the 1 billion mark during 2015.

With 91% of all mobile lines, privately owned operators dominate the mobile services market in India: Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), the largest service provider in India, leads with a 23% market share, followed by Vodafone India with 18.9%. Idea Cellular Ltd. is the third largest, with a near 16% market share, followed by Reliance Communications Ltd. with 11.3%. Of the two state-owned operators, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) is by far the largest, with a mobile market share of 8.6%, while Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) , which operates in only two of the country's 22 "circles" (service areas), commands only 0.4% of the national total market share.

Table 1: India's Mobile Operators By Subscribers, December 2014

Rank Operator Number of mobile subscribers Market share
1 Bharti Airtel 217.2 million 23.01%
2 Vodafone India 178.7 million 18.93%
3 Idea Cellular 150.5 million 15.95%
4 Reliance Communications 106.3 million 11.26%
5 BSNL 81.4 million 8.62%
6 Aircel 78.7 million 8.33%
7 Tata 66.2 million 7.01%
8 Telewings (Uninor) 43.6 million 4.62%
9 Sistema 8.98 million 0.95%
10 Videocon 6.45 million 0.68%
11 MTNL 3.45 million 0.37%
12 Quadrant 2.51 million 0.27%
Total 943.97 million 100%
Source: TRAI

Mobile line teledensity -- the number of connections per 100 people -- touched 75.43% at the end of December, according to the data published by TRAI. However, most of this growth is in the cities: Urban wireless teledensity reached 142.46%, while rural teledensity was around 45.47 at the end of 2014.

Though Bharti Airtel boasts of the largest market share, it is Idea Cellular that added the most new subscribers during December. It added 2.5 million new subscribers, while Bharti Airtel added 1.7 million. Vodafone India added 1.49 million new customers, followed by Telewings (using the Uninor brand), which added 1.2 million new subs.

However, not all of the reported lines are active. India has always had a significant share of inactive lines because of the large number of pre-paid SIMs that were activated and then used for only a short time. During the past two years the telcos have made an effort to identify and retire inactive connections, but many remain. According to the TRAI monthly report, approximately 88.25% -- around 833 million lines -- of the total mobile base was active in December 2014. However, that is a much higher rate than in the past: The proportion of active lines three years ago was only at about 72%.

For the latest developments in India's telecom market, visit the dedicated India content channel here at Light Reading.

In contrast to the wireless market, the number of wireline voice lines continues to decline. The number of wireline connections fell month-on-month by about 100,000 to end December at 27 million.

Fixed broadband connections (lines with a downstream speed of more than 512 Kbit/s) continue to edge up, though. The telcos added 90,000 new connections between them during December, taking the total to 15.32 million. The number of mobile connections offering a "broadband" connection through handsets and dongles increased by about 3.4 million to almost 70 million.

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

mhhf1ve 2/15/2015 | 3:10:48 PM
Re: smartphone marketshare? Thanks, nasimson! Thought it was a bit odd for Apple to ignore one if the largest nations but it seems like there's still plenty of growth left in the Indian market. Apple isn't really known for being the first into a market.
nasimson 2/14/2015 | 11:37:28 PM
Re: smartphone marketshare? Apple didnt priortize India at least initially. Although there were units shipped from US & UK independant of Apple's own distribution. Now Apple is officially distributing in India, Pakistan & Bangladesh. And the biggest hit is on Samsung's flagship phones: Note & S.
mhhf1ve 2/10/2015 | 3:48:53 PM
smartphone marketshare? Looks like smartphones are growing pretty fast, but have yet to take over the majority of handsets in India (32% penetration). 


It's interesting that Apple doesn't seem to have dipped much of a toe into the market here... 
Mitch Wagner 2/9/2015 | 4:10:27 PM
Profound This is a profound change -- I wonder how it's changed daily life in India?
nasimson 2/9/2015 | 9:31:51 AM
Less than 5% I am a little surprised to see Telenor at less than 5%. In all other markets they are at number 1 or number 2. Perhaps it is the late entry in the Indian market that is the problem.
[email protected] 2/9/2015 | 9:23:43 AM
Impact of 4G still to come The increasing availability of affordable smartphoes and the introduction of 4G services should see a surge in mob ile subs abd introduce a real broadband ecosystem to India - at least to the urban centers...
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