Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expects the telecom subscriber base in the country to touch 700 million by 2012, going by the massive number of monthly addition of new users.
"In October 2008, Indian mobile telephone operators signed up a record number of over 10 million users. At this rate of growth, the total telecom subscriber base is expected to reach 700 million by 2012 with about 650 million mobile users and 50 million landlines," Singh said while inaugurating 'India Telecom 2008' fest.
The Department of Telecom has fixed a target of 500 million telephone connections by 2010 and 750 million by 2012. Currently, the country's telecom user base is at 373 million, including November figures.
Indian telecom sector has a unique distinction of being the fastest growing telecom sector in the world, with addition of over eight million subscribers per month, and the second largest wireless network in the world after China, surpassing the US.
According to analysts, the only glitch in the growth pattern is that the telecom growth in rural areas has not kept pace with that in urban areas. That being the reason, the government has a long way to go in bridging the rural-urban divide and further improving the connectivity in rural areast.
But the situation is improving there too.The Prime Minister said, "Many of the new subscribers are now coming from rural areas. More than three million rural subscribers are being added every month. India has one of the cheapest cell phone rates in the world. This helps our rural countrymen, farmers and fishermen in using mobile phone services. However, rural tele-density stays low at 13 per cent compared to the national average of 32 per cent and the urban tele-density of 74 per cent."
Speaking on the occasion, Telecom Minister A Raja said the sector had made remarkable growth in the recent past."In the last 18 months, the country has added 150 million subscribers, and tele-density has increased from 18 per cent in 2006 to 32 per cent in November 2008. The pace of expansion will be more as the new operators start rolling their networks, he said.
On new initiatives, he said, the mobile number portability, which allowed users to keep the mobile number after changing the service provider was likely to be implemented in metros and A category circles by middle 2009 and in the entire country by end 2009. X