24 Sep :The Communications and IT Minister Thiru A Raja today expressed concern about the low levels of rural teledensity despite impressive growth of the telecom sector and low tariffs.
Inaugurating the 14th India Telecommunications International Summit 2008 in New Delhi, Mr. Raja observed that vast stretches of India’s rural population have little or no telecom penetration and there is a large rural-urban divide in connectivity. He said, the government proposed to achieve rural teledensity of 25% by means of 200 million rural connections by the end of the 11th Plan. So far, around 88 million phones have been provided in the rural areas with a teledensity of around 11%.
The Minister said, efforts are being made under USO Fund to strengthen infrastructure for providing wireless phone services in rural and remote areas of the country. He underlined that better telecom connectivity will help the rural hinterland to get integrated with the rapid growth processes.
Mr. Raja said, by the end of 2012, a total of 600 million connections have been envisaged, which would necessitate an estimated requirement for equipment worth USD 73 billion during next five years. He said, majority of the investment is expected to be realized through FDI, particularly in the area of mobile communication. Today, all major global telecom majors like Vodafone, Nokia, Elcoteq, Alcatel, LG, and Ericsson have their manufacturing bases in India.
The Minister said, following government’s measures to promote broadband in the country, the broadband subscribers grew from a meager 0.18 million as in March 2005 to more than 4 million, up to August 2008. It is also envisaged that internet and broad-band subscribers will increase to 40 million and 20 million, respectively, by 2010.
The Telecom summit is being attended by major players in Indian and global telecom industry, telecom operators and service providers.
At the time of independence, India had only about 0.1 million telephones. Today, the Indian telecommunications network with over 344 million connections by August 2008 is the third largest in the world and the second largest among the emerging economies of Asia. India, today, has the second largest mobile subscriber base in the world, next only to China.
The teledensity, which was less than 1% in 1986-87, has increased to about 30% at the end of August 2008. With the current pace, when, about eight million telephones are being added every month, the Government’s target of 500 million connections by 2010 is well within reach. Rural teledensity has also touched double digit now.
There has been a noticeable transformation in the technology from wireline to wireless. Wireless phones that did not exist in 1986-87, have a share of 88% in the total telephone connections in the country at the end of August 2008.
The sector also witnessed significant impact of the Government’s liberalization efforts and the boost to privatization. From the days of monopoly of Government owned MTNL / BSNL in 1986-87, the share of private sector in the total telephone connections has reached about 77% in August 2008.