India Becomes the Only Country to Join China in the 1-bn Mobile Subscribers Club

There are now over one billion mobile users in India, the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India has said in its latest report. By breaching this frontier, India is the only country apart from China to boast such a massive base of consumers with cellphone connectivity. With this, the number of mobile subscribers in India is now three times the population of the United States. The subscriber base in India approximated 996.66 mn as of September 2015 and rose at a monthly growth rate of 0.69% to reach 1,003.49 mn in October 2015. This is a major milestone considering that India’s population is 1.25 bn, ranking only behind China, which has a population of 1.35 bn.

In analyzing what makes India’s mobile subscriber base so massive, analysts have zeroed in on two key aspects: affordable phone prices and cheap call rates. With an impressive 200 mn subscribers, Bharti Airtel is the leading telecom operator in the Indian market. Vodafone and Idea follow the market leader. Other major players in this space include Aircel, Reliance, TATA, BSNL, and Telenor.

Although Airtel’s subscriber base of 200 mn might not exactly come across as impressive when juxtaposed against the fact that Verizon in the United States has 137.5 million subscribers (the total population of the U.S. was 318.9 mn as of 2014), it is important to note that the market leader is competing against nearly a dozen other telecom operators in a fragmented market.

Over the next year, more consumers across India are expected to become mobile subscribers as network coverage improves. The Union Ministry of Telecom has directed telecom operators to boost coverage by installing more towers.

In what comes as good news for Indian consumers, call rates are expected to witness a further drop with the launch of Reliance Jio 4G in early 2016. For the other players, however, this will only mean one more aggressive competitor to contend with.

The rates of handsets, too, are expected to dip further with the ambitious ‘Make in India’ project attracting several Chinese manufacturers. While there’s little doubt that the Indian telecom sector will see cutthroat competition, what definitely cannot be argued is that consumers are the ones to benefit the most from these recent market developments.


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