Communications in India: Wikis


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The Indian telecommunication industry, with about 525 million mobile phone connections (Dec 2009) [1][2], is the third largest telecommunication network in the world and the second largest in terms of number of wireless connections.[3] The Indian telecom industry is one of the fastest growing in the world and is projected that India will have 'billion plus' mobile users by 2015.[4][5] Projection by several leading global consultancies is that India’s telecom network will overtake China’s in the next 10 years.[5] For the past decade or so, telecommunication activities have gained momentum in India. Efforts have been made from both governmental and non-governmental platforms to enhance the infrastructure. The idea is to help modern telecommunication technologies to serve all segments of India’s culturally diverse society, and to transform it into a country of technologically aware people.


Modern growth

A large population, low telephony penetration levels, and a rise in consumers' income and spending owing to strong economic growth have helped make India the fastest-growing telecom market in the world. The first and largest operator is the state-owned incumbent BSNL, which is also the 7th largest telecom company in the world in terms of its number of subscribers. BSNL was created by corporatization of the erstwhile DTS (Department of Telecommunication Services), a government unit responsible for provision of telephony services. Subsequently, after the telecommunication policies were revised to allow private operators, companies such as Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, Tata Indicom, Idea Cellular, Aircel and Loop Mobile have entered the space. see major operators in India. In 2008-09, rural India outpaced urban India in mobile growth rate.

India's mobile phone market is the fastest growing in the world, with companies adding some 19.1 million new customers added in December 2009.

The total number of telephones in the country crossed the 543 million mark on Oct 2009.The overall tele-density has increased to 44.85% in Oct 2009.Telecom Regulatory Authority of India,Information note to the Press (Press Release No. 61 / 2007), 20 Jun 2007 In the wireless segment, 19 million subscribers have been added in Dec 2009. The total wireless subscribers (GSM, CDMA & WLL (F)) base is more than 543.20 million now. The wireline segment subscriber base stood at 37.06 million with a decline of 0.12 million in Dec 2009.


Telecom in the real sense means transfer of information between two distant points in space. The popular meaning of telecom always involves electrical signals and nowadays people exclude postal or any other raw telecommunication methods from its meaning. Therefore, the history of Indian telecom can be started with the introduction of telegraph.

Introduction of telegraph

The postal and telecom sectors had a slow and uneasy start in India. In 1850, the first experimental electric telegraph Line was started between Kolkata and Diamond Harbor. In 1851, it was opened for the British East India Company. The Posts and Telegraphs department occupied a small corner of the Public Works Department,[6] at that time. Construction of 4,000 miles (6,400 km) of telegraph lines connecting Kolkata (Calcutta) and Peshawar in the north along with Agra, Mumbai (Bombay) through Sindwa Ghats, and Chennai in the south, as well as Ootacamund and Bangalore was started in November 1853. Dr. William O'Shaughnessy, who pioneered telegraph and telephone in India, belonged to the Public Works Department. He tried his level best for the development of telecom through out this period. A separate department was opened in 1854 when telegraph facilities were opened to the public.

Introduction of the telephone

In 1880, two telephone companies namely The Oriental Telephone Company Ltd. and The Anglo-Indian Telephone Company Ltd. approached the Government of India to establish telephone exchanges in India. The permission was refused on the grounds that the establishment of telephones was a Government monopoly and that the Government itself would undertake the work. By 1881, the Government changed its earlier decision and a licence was granted to the Oriental Telephone Company Limited of England for opening telephone exchanges at Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai (Madras) and Ahmedabad. 28 January 1882, is a Red Letter Day in the history of telephone in India. On this day Major E. Baring, Member of the Governor General of India's Council declared open the Telephone Exchange in Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai. The exchange at Kolkata named "Central Exchange" was opened at third floor of the building at 7, Council House Street. The Central Telephone Exchange had 93 number of subscribers. Bombay also witnessed the opening of Telephone Exchange in 1882.

Further developments

While all the major cities and towns in the country were linked with telephones during the British period, the total number of telephones in 1948 was only around 80,000. Even after independence, growth was extremely slow. The telephone was a status symbol rather than being an instrument of utility. The number of telephones grew leisurely to 980,000 in 1971, 2.15 million in 1981 and 5.07 million in 1991, the year economic reforms were initiated in the country.

While certain innovative steps were taken from time to time, as for example introduction of the telex service in Mumbai in 1953 and commissioning of the first [subscriber trunk dialing] route between Delhi and Kanpur in 1960, the first waves of change were set going by Sam Pitroda in the eighties.[7] He brought in a whiff of fresh air. The real transformation in scenario came with the announcement of the National Telecom Policy in 1994.[8]

Emergence as a major player

In 1975, the Department of Telecom (DoT) was separated from P&T. DoT was responsible for telecom services in entire country until 1985 when Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) was carved out of DoT to run the telecom services of Delhi and Mumbai. In 1990s the telecom sector was opened up by the Government for private investment as a part of Liberalisation-Privatization-Globalization policy. Therefore, it became necessary to separate the Government's policy wing from its operations wing. The Government of India corporatised the operations wing of DoT on 1 October 2000 and named it as Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). Many private operators, such as Reliance Communications, Tata Indicom, Vodafone, Loop Mobile, Airtel, Idea etc., successfully entered the high potential Indian telecom market.

Liberalisation of telcommunications in India

The Indian government was composed of many factions (parties) which had different ideologies. Some of them were willing to throw open the market to foreign players (the centrists) and others wanted the government to regulate infrastructure and restrict the involvement of foreign players. Due to this political background it was very difficult to bring about liberalization in telecommunications. When a bill was in parliament a majority vote had to be passed, and such a majority was difficult to obtain, given to the number of parties having different ideologies.

Liberalization started in 1981 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed contracts with Alcatel CIT of France to merge with the state owned Telecom Company (ITI), in an effort to set up 5,000,000 lines per year. But soon the policy was let down because of political opposition. She invited Sam Pitroda a US based NRI to set up a Center for Development of Telematics(C-DOT), however the plan failed due to political reasons. During this period, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, many public sector organizations were set up like the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) , VSNL and MTNL. Many technological developments took place in this regime but still foreign players were not allowed to participate in the telecommunications business.[9]

The demand for telephones was ever increasing. It was during this period that the P.N Rao led government introduced the national telecommunications policy [NTP] in 1994 which brought changes in the following areas: ownership, service and regulation of telecommunications infrastructure. They were also successful in establishing joint ventures between state owned telecom companies and international players. But still complete ownership of facilities was restricted only to the government owned organizations. Foreign firms were eligible to 49% of the total stake. The multi-nationals were just involved in technology transfer, and not policy making.[9]

During this period, the World Bank and ITU had advised the Indian Government to liberalize long distance services in order to release the monopoly of the state owned DoT and VSNL; and to enable competition in the long distance carrier business which would help reduce tariff's and better the economy of the country. The Rao run government instead liberalized the local services, taking the opposite political parties into confidence and assuring foreign involvement in the long distance business after 5 years. The country was divided into 20 telecommunication circles for basic telephony and 18 circles for mobile services. These circles were divided into category A, B and C depending on the value of the revenue in each circle. The government threw open the bids to one private company per circle along with government owned DoT per circle. For cellular service two service providers were allowed per circle and a 15 years license was given to each provider. During all these improvements, the government did face oppositions from ITI, DoT, MTNL, VSNL and other labor unions, but they managed to keep away from all the hurdles.[9]

After 1995 the government set up TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) which reduced the interference of Government in deciding tariffs and policy making. The DoT opposed this. The political powers changed in 1999 and the new government under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee was more pro-reforms and introduced better liberalization policies. They split DoT in two- one policy maker and the other service provider (DTS) which was later renamed as BSNL. The proposal of raising the stake of foreign investors from 49% to 74% was rejected by the opposite political party and leftist thinkers. Domestic business groups wanted the government to privatize VSNL. Finally in April 2002, the government decided to cut its stake of 53% to 26% in VSNL and to throw it open for sale to private enterprises. TATA finally took 25% stake in VSNL.[9]

This was a gateway to many foreign investors to get entry into the Indian Telecom Markets. After March 2000, the government became more liberal in making policies and issuing licenses to private operators. The government further reduced license fees for cellular service providers and increased the allowable stake to 74% for foreign companies. Because of all these factors, the service fees finally reduced and the call costs were cut greatly enabling every common middle class family in India to afford a cell phone.

32million handsets were sold in India. The data reveals the real potential for growth of the Indian mobile market.[10]

In March 2008 the total GSM and CDMA mobile subscriber base in the country was 375 million, which represented a nearly 50% growth when compared with previous year.[11]

that do not have International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, because they pose a serious security risk to the country. Mobile network operators therefore planned to suspend the usage of around 30 million mobile phones (about 8 % of all mobiles in the country) by 30 April.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag. The mobile services were commercially launched in August 1995 in India. In the initialwas 16 million, followed by 22 million in 2004, 32 million in 2005 and 65 million in 2006. As of January 2009, total mobile phone subscribers numbered 362 million, having added 15 million that month alone[12]. India ranks second in mobile phone usage to China, with 506 million users as of November 2009[13].

India has opted for the use of both the GSM (global system for mobile communications) and CDMA (code-division multiple access) technologies in the mobile sector. In addition to landline and mobile phones, some of the companies also provide the WLL service.

The mobile tariffs in India have also become lowest in the world. A new mobile connection can be activated with a monthly commitment of US$0.15 only. In 2005 alone additions increased to around 2 million per month in the year 2003-04 and 2004-05.

Although mobile telephones followed the New Telecom Policy 1994, growth was tardy in the early years because of the high price of hand sets as well as the high tariff structure of mobile telephones. The New Telecom Policy in 1999, the industry heralded several pro consumer initiatives. Mobile subscriber additions started picking up. The number of mobile phones added throughout the country in 2003</ref>

Revenue and growth

The total revenue in the telecom service sector was Rs. 86,720 crore in 2005-06 as against Rs. 71, 674 crore in 2004-2005, registering a growth of 21%. The total investment in the telecom services sector reached Rs. 200,660 crore in 2005-06, up from Rs. 178,831 crore in the previous fiscal.[14]

Telecommunication is the lifeline of the rapidly growing Information Technology industry. Internet subscriber base has risen to 6.94 million in 2005- 2006. Out of this 1.35 million were broadband connections.[15] More than a billion people use the internet globally.

Under the Bharat Nirman Programme, the Government of India will ensure that 66,822 revenue villages in the country, which have not yet been provided with a Village Public Telephone (VPT), will be connected. However doubts have been raised about what it would mean for the poor in the country.[16]

It is difficult to ascertain fully the employment potential of the telecom sector but the enormity of the opportunities can be gauged from the fact that there were 3.7 million Public Call Offices in December 2005[17] up from 2.3 million in December 2004.

The value added services (VAS) market within the mobile industry in India has the potential to grow from $500 million in 2006 to a whopping $10 billion by 2009.[18]


On landlines, intra circle calls are considered local calls while inter circle are considered long distance calls. Currently Government is working to integrate the whole country in one telecom circle. For long distance calls, you dial the area code prefixed with a zero (e.g. For calling Delhi, you would dial 011-XXXX XXXX). For international calls, you would dial "00" and the country code+area code+number. The country code for India is 91.

Until recently, only the PSU's BSNL and MTNL were allowed to provide Basic Phone Service through copper wires in India. MTNL is operating in Delhi and Mumbai only and all other parts are covered by BSNL. However private operators have now entered the fray, although their focus is largely on the cellular business which is growing rapidly.

Telephony Subscribers (Wireless and Landline): 562.21 million (Dec 2009)

Cellphones: 525.15 million (Dec 2009)[19][20]

Land Lines: 37.06 million (Dec 2009)

Broad Band Subscription: 7.83 million (Dec 2009)

Monthly Cellphone Addition: 19.20 million (Dec 2009)[21]

Teledensity: 47.89% (Dec 2009)

Projected teledensity: 893 million, 64.69% of population by 2012.[22]

Wireless telephones

The Mobile telecommunications system in India is the second largest in the world and it was thrown open to private players in the 1990s. The country is divided into multiple zones, called circles (roughly along state boundaries). Government and several private players run local and long distance telephone services. Competition has caused prices to drop and calls across India are one of the cheapest in the world.[23] The rates are supposed to go down further with new measures to be taken by the Information Ministry.[24] The mobile service has seen phenomenal growth since 2000. In September 2004, the number of mobile phone connections have crossed fixed-line connections. India primarily follows the GSM mobile system, in the 900 MHz band. Recent operators also operate in the 1800 MHz band. The dominant players are Airtel, Reliance Infocomm, Vodafone, Idea cellular and BSNL/MTNL. There are many smaller players, with operations in only a few states. International roaming agreements exist between most operators and many foreign carriers.

The breakup of wireless subscriber base in India as of December 2009 is given below[25]

Operator Subscriber base
Bharti Airtel 118,864,031
Reliance Communications 93,795,613
Vodafone Essar 91,401,959
BSNL 62,861,214
Idea Cellular 57,611,872
Tata Teleservices 57,329,449
Aircel 31,023,997
MTNL 4,875,913
MTS India 3,042,741
Loop Mobile India 2,649,730
Uninor 1,208,130
HFCL Infotel 341,862
Stel 141,411
All India 525,147,922

The list of ten states (including the metros Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in their respective states) with largest subscriber base as of September 2009 is given below[25]

State Subscriber base Wireless density'"
Maharashtra 58,789,949 51.96
Uttar Pradesh 57,033,513 26.32
Tamil Nadu 45,449,460 63.66
Andhra Pradesh 37,126,048 42.58
West Bengal 32,540,049 34.28
Karnataka 28,867,734 46.76
Rajasthan 27,742,395 39.09
Gujarat 27,475,585 45.49
Bihar 27,434,896 25.04
Madhya Pradesh 24,923,739 33.09
All India 471,726,205 37.71

Wireless density was calculated using projected population of states from the natural growth rates of 1991-2001 and population of 2001 census.


Landline service in India is primarily run by BSNL/MTNL and Reliance Infocomm though there are several other private players too, such as Touchtel and Tata Teleservices. Landlines are facing stiff competition from mobile telephones. The competition has forced the landline services to become more efficient. The landline network quality has improved and landline connections are now usually available on demand, even in high density urban areas. The breakup of wireline subscriber base in India as of September 2009 is given below[25]

Operator Subscriber base
BSNL 28,446,969
MTNL 3,514,454
Bharti Airtel 2,928,254
Reliance Communications 1,152,237
Tata Teleservices 1,003,261
HFCL Infotel 165,978
Teleservices Ltd 95,181
All India 37,306,334

The list of eight states (including the metros Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai in their respective states) with largest subscriber base as of September 2009 is given below[25]

State Subscriber base
Maharashtra 5,996,912
Tamil Nadu 3,620,729
Kerala 3,534,211
Uttar Pradesh 2,803,049
Karnataka 2,751,296
Delhi 2,632,225
West Bengal 2,490,253
Andhra Pradesh 2,477,755


The total subscriber base for internet users in India is 81 million as of 2009.[26]

The number of broadband connections in India have seen a continuous growth since the beginning of 2006. At the end of January 2010, total broadband connections in the country have reached 8.03 million.

BSNL, Tata Teleservices, Airtel, Reliance Communications, Sify, MTNL, STPI, Netcom, Railtel, GAILTEL, You Telecom, Spice and Hathway are some of the major ISPs in India. TRAI has defined broadband as 256 kbit/s or higher. However, many ISPs advertise their service as broadband but don't offer the suggested speeds. Broadband in India is more expensive as compared to Western Europe/United Kingdom and United States.[27]

After economic liberalization in 1992, many private ISPs have entered the market, many with their own local loop and gateway infrastructures. The telecom services market is regulated by TRAI. ADSL providers include:

Because of the increase in ISPs and the quality of service Qos, It became cheaper to call India from around the world. Many Indians today, studying or living all around the world, are using calling cards to India to speak with their families back home. It used to be much more expensive prior to 2002.


The current definition of Broadband in India is speeds of 256 kbit/s. TRAI on July 2009 has recommened raising this limit to 2 Mbps.[28] As of November 2009, India has 8.03 million broadband users.[29] Although, India ranks one of the lowest provider of broadband speed as compared to other countries like Japan, South Korea or France.[4][27] In the fixed line arena, BSNL and MTNL are the incumbents in their respective areas of operation and continue to enjoy the dominant service provider status in the domain of fixed line services. For example BSNL controls 79% of fixed line share in the country.

On the other hand, in the mobile telephony space, Airtel controls 21.4% subscriber base followed by Reliance with 20.3%, BSNL with 18.6%, Vodafone with 14.7% subscriber base (as per June 2005 data).[30][31]

Airtel and BSNL have launched 8 Mbit/s & Reliance Communication offers 10 Mb/s broadband internet services in selected areas recently . For home users , the maximum speed for unlimited downloads is 2 Mbit/s , available for USD 60 (roughly , without taxes) per month.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) & Hosts: 86,571 (2004) Source: CIA World FactBook

Country code (Top-level domain): IN


Radio broadcast stations: AM 153, FM 91, shortwave 68 (1998)

Radios: 116 million (1997)

Television terrestrial broadcast stations: 562 (of which 82 stations have 1 kW or greater power and 480 stations have less than 1 kW of power) (1997)

Televisions: 110 million (2006)

In India, only the government owned Doordarshan (Door = Distant = Tele, Darshan = Vision) is allowed to broadcast terrestrial television signals. It initially had one major National channel (DD National) and a Metro channel in some of the larger cities (also known as DD Metro).

Satellite/Cable television took off during the first Gulf War with CNN. There are no regulations against ownership of satellite dish antennas, or operation of cable television systems, which led to an explosion of viewership and channels, led by the Star TV group and Zee TV. Initially restricted to music and entertainment channels, viewership grew, giving rise to several channels in regional languages and many in the national language, Hindi. The main news channels available were CNN and BBC World. In the late 1990s, many current affairs and news channels sprouted, becoming immensely popular because of the alternative viewpoint they offered compared to Doordarshan. Some of the notable ones are Aaj Tak (means Till Today, run by the India Today group) and STAR News, CNN-IBN, Times Now, initially run by the NDTV group and their lead anchor, Prannoy Roy (NDTV now has its own channels, NDTV 24x7, NDTV Profit, NDTV India and NDTV Imagine).New Delhi TeleVision.

Here is a reasonably comprehensive List of Indian television stations.

Next generation networks

In the Next Generation Networks, multiple access networks can connect customers to a core network based on IP technology. These access networks include fibre optics or coaxial cable networks connected to fixed locations or customers connected through wi-fi as well as to 3G networks connected to mobile users. As a result, in the future, it would be impossible to identify whether the next generation network is a fixed or mobile network and the wireless access broadband would be used both for fixed and mobile services. It would then be futile to differentiate between fixed and mobile networks – both fixed and mobile users will access services through a single core network.

Indian telecom networks are not so intensive as developed country’s telecom networks and India's teledensity is low only in rural areas. 670,000 route kilometers (419,000 miles) of optical fibres has been laid in India by the major operators, even in remote areas and the process continues. BSNL alone, has laid optical fibre to 30,000 Telephone Exchanges out of their 36 Exchanges. Keeping in mind the viability of providing services in rural areas, an attractive solution appears to be one which offers multiple service facility at low costs. A rural network based on the extensive optical fibre network, using Internet Protocol and offering a variety of services and the availability of open platforms for service development, viz. the Next Generation Network, appears to be an attractive proposition. Fibre network can be easily converted to Next Generation network and then used for delivering multiple services at cheap cost.

Mobile Number Portability (MNP)

Number portability: TRAI announced the rules and regulations to be followed for the Mobile Number Portability in their draft release on 23 September 2009. Mobile Number Portability (MNP) allows users to retain their numbers, while shifting to a different service provider provided they follow the guidelines set by TRAI. Users are expected to holding the mobile number with a given provider for at least 90 days, before they decide to move to the other provider.[32]

As per news reports, Government of India decided to implement MNP from December 31, 2009 in Metros & category ‘A’ service areas and by March 20, 2010 in rest of the country.


Submarine cables

Telecom Training in India

The incumbent telecom operators (BSNL & MTNL) have maintained several telecom training centres at regional, circle and district level. BSNL has three national level intitutions, namely Advanced Level Telecom Training Centre(ALTTC) at Ghaziabad, UP; Bharat Ratna Bhim Rao Ambedkar Institute Of Telecom Training at Jabalpur, MP; and National Academy of Telecom Finance and Management.

MTNL incorporated Centre for Excellence in Telecom Technology and Management (CETTM) in 2003-04. It is the largest telecom training centre in India and one of the biggest in Asia with a capex plan of over Rs. 100 crore . CETTM is situated at Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai with built area of 4,86,921 sq ft. It provides training in telecom switching, transmission, wireless communication, telecom operations and management to corporates and students besides its own internal employees.

Other than the government opearators some private players like Bharti and Reliance have started their own training centres.

See also

External links


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Government of India: Economic Survey Energy, Infrastructure and Communications
  4. ^ a b "India to have 'billion plus' mobile users by 2015: executive" (cms). Economic Times. Retrieved 18 Nov 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "India Republic Day Supplement: India: The fastest-growing telecom market" (doc). arab news. Retrieved 1 October 2005. 
  6. ^ Public Works Department
  7. ^ BSNL
  8. ^ Indian Government
  9. ^ a b c d Dash, Kishore. "Veto Players and the Deregulation of State-Owned Enterprises: The Case of Telecommunications in India" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-06-26. 
  10. ^ TRAI
  11. ^
  12. ^ Mobile Phone Subscribers: India and China – January 2009
  13. ^ India's mobile phone users
  14. ^ Press Release no. 60/2006 issued on 28 June 2006 by TRAI
  15. ^ Press Release No. no. 60/2006 issued on 28 June 2006 by TRAI
  16. ^ Hindu Net
  17. ^ Press Release No. no. 35/2006 issued on 10 April 2006 by TRAI
  18. ^ (Music, games to drive mobile VAS growth)
  19. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named; see Help:Cite error.
  20. ^ Subscriber addition falls, 11.59 mn mobile users added in May
  21. ^ Telecom users swell by 12 mn in June
  22. ^ India will get next 400 million mobile users five times faster
  23. ^ The death of STD
  24. ^ Free broadband, rent-free landlines likely: Maran
  25. ^ a b c d Information note to the Press (Press Release No 73/2009)
  26. ^ India adds 4.487 cr wireless subscribers in Jan-March
  27. ^ a b "Japanese Broadband World's Fastest, Cheapest - Iceland Cools off in Global Broadband Penetration Rankings - US Broadband Penetration Grows to 85.9% Among Active Internet Users - November 2007 Bandwidth Report". 2004-03-24. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  28. ^ TRAI for redefining floor broadband speed at 2Mbps
  29. ^ India adds 4.487 cr wireless subscribers in Jan-Mar quarter
  30. ^ TRAI Report
  31. ^ Press Release
  32. ^

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