2007 Roundup: India Registers Unprecedented Telecom Growth

The proactive policies of the Department of Telecommunications have resulted in an unprecedented growth of the Telecom sector during 2007. The Department of Telecommunications has been able to provide state of the art world class infrastructure at globally competitive tariffs and reduce the digital divide by extending connectivity to the unconnected areas. About a quarter million handsets are being sold every day at prices which are within reach of the common man which in turn has made India one of the most sought after telecom manufacturing destinations.

The Indian Telecom sector is currently witnessing a resurgent growth and has emerged as the fastest growing telecom market in the world with the addition of over 7 million subscribers per month. With current subscriber base of over 250 million and a monthly addition of about 7 million, the half a billion mark is expected by the year 2010. The growth in this sector is also contributing significantly in the economic growth of the country. As against a target of 250 million telephone connections by December 2007, 264 million telephone connections have already been installed by November 2007. The overall Teledensity is 23.21.

The Group of Ministers on ‘vacation of spectrum and raising resources for the purpose’ has decided to constitute a Committee under the Chairmanship of National Security Advisor with Secretary (Telecom), Defence Secretary and representatives from Department of Space, Ministry of Defence and Department of Telecommunications as members to come up with a workable plan for alternate network to facilitate quick release of spectrum for mobile services without compromising the requirements of Defence and Space Services.

To sustain this growth trajectory in the sector, as a major policy initiative, DoT decided to set up seven Telecom Centres of Excellence in collaboration with major Telecom Service Providers and Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Management in Public Private Partnership mode in different parts of country. The main focus of these centres shall be to enhance the talent pool, creating an environment of technology innovation, securing and managing our national information infrastructure during peace/disaster and ensuring general economic upliftment through increased connectivity at an affordable price. Six Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) have been signed during the year.

“India Telecom 2007”, an exhibition-cum-conference was held during 12-15th December 2007 in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by the Prime Minister. ‘India Telecom Exhibition 2007’ had more than 150 Exhibitors and participation from 30 countries. The exhibitors had put on display latest technology available in the world in the telecom industry which proved to be very useful for the Indian Telecom operators and manufacturers. It also provided opportunities for transfer of technology and setting up of R & D base in collaboration with international firms in the country.

The Department of Telecommunications has been actively encouraging the adoption of modern technologies. Pilot projects on the existing and emerging technologies have been undertaken including Wireless Broadband, 3G etc. Emphasis is being given to technologies having potential to improve rural connectivity.

The Broadband Policy announced in October 2004 has a vision of covering 20 million broadband subscribers by the end of 2010. The Year 2007 was christened as the ‘Year of Broadband’ for popularizing broadband services in villages. As on October 2007, about 3 million broadband connections have been provided in more than 1100 towns.

The Department of Telecommunication’s thrust on rural telephony would go a long way in improving rural connectivity and reducing dissatisfaction in the rural areas which in turn would lead to a better internal security situation. 90 per cent of the villages have already been provided with Village Public Telephones (VPTs) under ‘Bharat Nirman Programme’, which is a focused programme to provide VPTs in 66,822 uncovered villages by June, 2008. As against this target, the number of villages provided with VPTs till October 2007 is 51,136. Apart from this 46,253 villages with a population exceeding 2,000 and without a Public phone facility other than the VPT were to be provided with Rural Community Phone (RCP). As on October 2007, number of RCPs installed is 37,911.

The Department of Telecommunications has also launched a scheme to provide support for setting up and managing 7871 infrastructure sites (towers) spread over 500 districts for provision of mobile services in the specified rural and remote areas where there is no existing fixed wireless or mobile coverage.

The low power usage (both outdoor and indoor) in the frequency band 5825-5875 MHz has been exempted from licensing requirement, within specified parameters. This should give a boost to usage of this band for Wi-Fi type services.

The Broad guidelines for 3rd Generation (3G) mobile services and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) services have been released during the year.

Keeping in view the interest of consumers, the Department of Telecommunications has decided to introduce mobile number portability in the four metro cities i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta and Chennai in the initial phase. This will provide the customer the facility to retain the same number while switching over from one operator to another within the same service area. This facility is likely to be available to the mobile subscribers by the fourth quarter of 2008. This would make the telecom market truly competitive.

“Given the central aim of NTP 99 to ensure rapid expansion of tele-density” and the objective “to transform in a time bound manner, the telecommunications sector to a greater competitive environment in both urban and rural areas providing equal opportunities and level playing field for all players”, the recommendations of TRAI that there should be no cap on the number of access provider in any service area has been considered by the Government and has been accepted.

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