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Phone, broadband growth in India sees sharp slowdown: TRAI numbers

October 31 2013:  Growth of telephone connectivity and broadband -- touted  as key instruments to empower India's billion plus citizens -- has virtually ground to a halt, the  government's latest figures reveal. 

Numbers  provided by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on October 25   for the month of August 2013,  show that  the number of telephone subscribers  increased from 904.46 in end July to 906.18 million in end August a growth of just 0.19% in a month which equals an annual growth rate of just 2.28 percent. Of this, wireless accounted for   876.72 million subscriptions and  wireline for 29.46 million

Broadband fares no better. TRAI figures show that the total national broadband subscriber base has increased by just  0.26 per cent to 15.28 million in the month over the 15.24 million in July 2013... which extrapolates to an annual growth rate of  just over 3 %.  Broadband numbers  need to be further downsized for a global comparison because  the Indian government   self servingly defines broadband as 256 KBPS while internationally it is  pegged as 1 MBPS.

In the heydays prior to 2012,   broadband in India, grew annually by 16- 17% and phone subscriptions   saw monthly additions of 15 million and more.

This dismal picture is being attributed in government circles to its drive to eliminate  dead or unused accounts -- the truth may lie in the  many bureaucratic obstacles that the same government places in the  path of  users trying to acquire a phone or Internet connection... in the name of security.

You can buy a local SIM card for a phone or broadband connection through vending machines immediately on arrival in many countries -- including the more security sensitive like the US;  but in India the activation of a new SIM takes days, while the buyers antecedents,  permanent address and ID are verified and counterchecked.

The continuing regulatory problems faced by the telecom providers and  the seeming policy paralysis in the relevant government departments  after multiple revelations of venality and criminal conduct, are being seen as the main reason why the industry has  little interest --  or even the ability -- to grow the usage in India to healthy levels. Five of eleven operators --Vodafone, Tata, Unitech and the two government players BSNL and MTNL -- experienced negative growth in August,  the TRAI release shows.