India's mobile subscriber base crosses 500 million mark

The country added 17.7 million mobile subscribers in November

India's mobile subscriber base crossed the 500 million mark in November, according to data released Wednesday by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The country had crossed the 500 million mark in both fixed and wireless telephone subscribers at the end of September.

The total number of mobile subscribers was 506 million at the end of November, up from 488 million in October. About 43 out of every 100 Indians now have mobile connections, according to TRAI.

The country added 17.7 million mobile subscribers in November, following deep tariff cuts by established players and new rollouts by existing and new operators.

The number of fixed line subscribers dipped by about 98,000 to 37.2 million in the same period, reflecting the declining popularity of fixed line telephony in the country.

New entrants in India such as Telenor's joint venture have started rolling out services, though analysts say that they will not be able to make a significant dent in the share of established players.

Mobile telephone service providers have resorted to deep cuts in tariffs to gain market share. The tariffs have hit rock bottom, and there is very little scope to gain market share through deeper cuts, said Kamlesh Bhatia, a principal research analyst at Gartner.

The tariff war has pushed down voice tariffs to lower than 0.01 Indian rupees (US$0.0002) per second. Earlier tariffs were typically fixed for a minimum of one minute or multiples thereof.

Tata Teleservices, a joint venture between NTT DoCoMo and India's Tata Group, added the largest number of new users in November. It added 3.3 million users in November taking its total base to 54 million. Bharti Airtel, the largest mobile service provider in the country, added 2.8 million, taking the total number of subscribers to 116 million.

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John Ribeiro

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