265 million users make India’s mobile phone market the second biggest in the world. Every month nine million new customers subscribe to mobile phone services. And most of them don’t live in cities but in the rural areas, where electricity and landlines are hardly available.
Countrywide mobile connection keeps this truckdriver in touch with his family anywhere
Sansarapur is a village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The roads are dusty and bumpy here and can only be used either by pedestrians or by motorbikes. Electricity is only available for two hours a day. Clearly, it has not benefited from India’s current economic boom. Until two years ago, one had to travel several kilometres to a nearby village: Just to make a phone call. As Ram Chaurasia the village elder recalls, getting a workable phone connection wasn’t really easy:
"There had been major problems with the landlines. One had to try again and again for a connection."
In 2006, things started changing dramatically, thanks to cellular phone networks which reached Sansarapur. Nowadays almost every home has a mobile phone.
Booming cell phone market
India’s mobile market has been growing at a fast pace. With 9 million new subscribers per month India is the number two of the mobile phone market in the world, ahead of the US and right behind China. As two thirds of the country’s population live in the rural area the mobile phone providers are targeting them as new customers. Saab Dayal Saxena, director of the state-run telephone company BSNL explain:
"Now the emphasis is going to go rural only because urban is getting saturated. In urban areas if you look at an average family, every member in the family will have a phone now."
Another major factor for the fast growth of India’s mobile market is the tough competition between various providers. Saxena expects that by now everybody is using cell phone because providers have made it very cheap.
500 Million customers by 2010
“The interesting part is it is profitable despite the fact that the tariffs are very low. But because the numbers are very large, we make big money on volumes."
And there seems to be no end to the current growth rate. T.V. Ramachand, director of the Indian Telecommunication Service Providers’ board, expects the number of mobile customers to double within the next two years. He says that India’s biggest asset is in it is population and that even after reaching the mind-boggling number of 500 million by 2010 the penetration of mobile phones in the market will not be 50 percent. So after reaching 500 million there would still be a potential of 100 percent growth.
In April the Indian government announced it would support this move by setting up an additional 11.000 mobile phone towers in the countryside.