Reuters in India has reported a ministerial speech claiming that the country, the world's fastest growing mobile market, could be adding between 6-8 million new users each month once networks reach all potential rural customers. The comments were made by Telecommunications Minister Dayanidhi Maran at 3GSM Barcelona .
January witnessed a record 4.7 million new GSM and CDMA mobile users in January, taking its wireless user base close to 83 million customers. And yet, more than a decade after launch, wireless networks cover only about one-third of the country and vast numbers of villages (where two-thirds of the billion-plus population live) remain unconnected.
"I believe that if we are able to reach mobile services to rural consumers, we have the potential to grow at 6, 7 or even 8 million subscribers a month," Minister Maran told 3GSM. " India cannot truly move forward unless we carry with us 70% of our citizens who reside in rural areas...Improved rural connectivity is one of the highest priorities for the government."
India has the cheapest tariffs in the world, less than US$0.02 a minute for a local mobile call, rates that are luring millions into a market place still up for grabs by western standards. Most additions are, however, in cities like New Delhi , where nearly 60% of the 14 million people there own phones. In contrast, rural areas have ownership rates around just 1.9%.
* Almost every new connection made in India this fiscal year has been to a mobile - 31 out of 32 million between April 2005 and January 2006. Minister Maran, who has prioritised the slashing of licensing costs in the highly taxed sector, has set a target of 250 million phone connections by 2007-8.