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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:

Crank your phone 19 Aug, 2008

How do you charge your mobile phone when there’s no electricity grid? A hand cranked dynamo may be the simplest, and most cost-efficient, answer.

We’ve earlier mentioned companies like Solio and Suntrica that make portable solar chargers.

Solio’s product is definitely at the high-end of the spectrum and retails for around $100, which may be a bit steep for a rural citizen. Suntrica’s product range is a bit different both in regards to price and product range, and they will soon publicize more information about the products. We’ll return with a new report on Suntrica then.

On a related note: if you have soldering skills and a DIY mindset, you can even make your own solar charger.

Solar chargers can be used collectively in a village - shared between a group of people. So can hand-cranked chargers, of course. And they do retail for quite a bit less than many of their solar peers. VNL-er Nikhil Swadia has done some research on what’s available.

The Chinese manufacturer Wenzhou Kaishi Electric offers a couple of different hand-cranked phone chargers. Cranking at 150 rpm/for 1 min provides enough power for 8 minutes of talk time. The chargers come with plugs for charging most common brands of mobile phones. It costs $1.8 in large quantities, most likely translating to a retail price point of around $10.

CNET has reviewed some hand-wound mobile phone chargers that cost around around $20 to 25. And there are more to be found at NexTag.

Clearly, there are many options for a villager to charge a mobile phone. And these portable chargers – both solar and hand-cranked – are quite convenient for anyone outside the range of the electricity grid.

As solar power technology matures further, and as adoption of mobile communication in rural communities increases, the field of portable chargers will evolve quickly. We’re tracking the development right here on the blog.

India soon second largest 25 Mar, 2008

A recent report from TRAI (India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority) points out that India is set to soon become the world’s second largest mobile phone market.

Current figures (February end) show that the largest is undoubtedly China, with 540.5 million users. The US has 260.5 million wireless users, and India is third with 250.9 million.

Considering that Indian subscriber growth is around 8 million users per month, compared with US figures of 2 million, it won’t be long until India becomes the second largest.

Found via: Telecom Tiger

Close to half a billion phones. Per year. 20 Mar, 2008

IDC analyst Aloysius Choong predicts that mobile phone sales in India will grow by 19% this year.

Both Economic Times and Financial Express report that mobile phone sales in the Asia Pacific region excluding Japan are set to grow an annual 10% to 400 million units in 2008.

The current mobile penetration rate in India is 20%. In China, the rate is 40%.

The Pyramid research report “The Next Billion: How Emerging Markets Are Shaping the Mobile Industry” says:

“India, not China, will add the most to the next billion.”

- Pyramid Research
October 2007

We believe they’re right.

Read more: Economic Times / Financial Express

Business Week sees mobile as social force 17 Mar, 2008

From Business Week, Sept 24 2007:

“A mobile phone can dramatically improve living standards by saving wasted trips, providing information about crop prices, summoning medical help, end even serving as a conduit to banking services… A growing body of evidence suggests that access to communications boosts incomes and makes local economies far more efficient.”

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves!