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Indian Mobile Market Breaks New Record 26 Aug, 2008

9.22 million. 9,220,000. That’s how many new Indian GSM and CDMA subscribers were added in July. It breaks the earlier record of 8.94 million that was set a month earlier.

Out of all the mobile operators, Bharti Airtel expanded the most with 2.69 million. Vodafone Essar welcomed 1.7 million new subscribers, and Reliance 1.5.

Close to 300 million people now have a mobile phone in India. This makes India the world’s second largest mobile phone market after China.

The split between GSM and CDMA is currently roughly 74% vs 26%.

As new GSM operators, such as Videocon, Unitech, Reliance and Tata Telservices, start launching mobile services by the end of this year, growth is expected to grow upwards of 10 million new subscribers per month.

A market with amazing contrasts

Rafat Ali recently wrote a blog entry about Cyriac Roeding’s (former EVP of mobile at CBS) travels in India.

He visited the spiritual city of Varanasi, and found himself standing at an intersection, observing his surroundings:

“The backdrop of this ancient scenery is dominated by a giant billboard from the mobile carrier Vodafone. And on the sidewalk, where men in wet orange T-shirts pass by after their spiritual bath in the Ganges River, a young entrepreneur has set up a booth on two wheels, which carries only two stationary telephones on a counter. This is a mobile phone recharging station, where consumers can add credit to their prepaid cell phones.”

There are many reasons for India’s mobile revolution. One of the most important is accessibility. Only a couple of million Indians - around 5% of the population - have Internet access. And getting a traditional wired phone installed is often a cumbersome process.

As it’s possible to get a new mobile phone for as low as $25, and as mobile services (voice, text messaging, data) are priced very competitively (the average country-wide ARPU lingers around $7), getting a mobile phone is the way to go.

But an enormous challenge still remains - making sure that mobile services are accessible to everyone. Which in the case of India translates to close to 400 million people - a majority located in rural areas - that still can’t use a mobile phone because there’s no coverage.

That’s where VNL’s WorldGSM™ system comes into the picture - helping operators reach rural markets profitably.

Further reading

To learn more about India’s mobile market, here are some resources worth visiting: