Airtel is now India’s biggest telecom provider

14th July 2009
Airtel is now India’s biggest telecom provider

Private sector, unleashed, surges past govt provider, saddled with fixed line legacy
July 15: Galloping growth in the mobile sector has pushed private sector telecom provider Bharti Airtel to  number one position in the ranking of top service providers during 2008-09, edging past the public sector giant BSNL. Airtel recorded a growth of 39.8 percent to BSNL’s negative numbers of -0.4 percent. The other leading providers in that order are Reliance, Vodafone, Idea and Tata Cellular. BSNL's poor showing is part of the burden the state enterprise has to bear -- for its  landline legacy. However BSNL has been pursuing mobile services as well as  IPTV and 3G-driven broadband internet  to  turn itself around.
These ranking were announced by Voice and Data magazine in its just released annual survey of the Telecom Services industry. The Indian industry collectively took revenues of Rs 2720.69 billion adding 130 million phones in the fiscal year, says the report.
Cellular phones had the lions share – 60.5 percent – with fixed lines trailing at 15.6 percent.
Comments Prasanto K Roy, Chief Editor of CyberMedia publications: “The Indian telecom services market continues to defy the global recession, as the highest growing sector in the Indian economy, and the fastest-growing telecom market in the world”,
“The recession proved to be a booster for telecom, as businesses and individuals chose communications tools over travel, to cut costs. Telecom services will continue its growth story this year, with 3G rollout and increasing use of data services,”  Roy suggests.
 Private triumph
The dominance of private telecom providers in the India story  -- and the choice customers enjoy between multiple – typically 3 or 4 – providers in every region, is evidence of the competitive   nature of the telecom arena in the country – and the ability of a largely unshackled market to achieve   stunning and sustained growth.
The first major signpost was crossed in November 2004, when mobile connections for the first time overtook fixed lines which were then around 44 million.  
Another landmark was May 1,2005 when telephones in India crossed 100 million: 54 million mobile and 46  mobile.  Since then monthly additions in mobile phones have been between 10 and 12 million   and the total number of phones as on July  1 2009 is in excess of 470 million, with fixed lines contributing around 38 million and shrinking by the day.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in a July 13 release says the average revenue per month keeps dropping and was  around Rs 205 in March this year, in the GSM sector which accounts for 3 of 4 mobile phones. Rural wireless phones are growing --but at around 17.7 percent, the rate is far slower than in urban areas.
Link to V&D magazine's telecom industry survey: