Indian mobile phone subscribers pass 200 million mark


NEW DELHI — The number of Indian mobile phone subscribers has passed the 200 million mark after the country added another eight million customers last month, industry figures show. India’s wireless market, the world’s fastest growing, attracted a further 8.31 million wireless subscribers in August to touch 201.29 million users, according to figures from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Saturday. The latest mobile milestone comes just over a year after India crossed the 100-million subscriber mark in May 2006. At the end of August, India had 241.02 million telephone subscribers in total, compared with 232.87 million at the end of July. The country’s teledensity — the number of people owning a telephone out of every 100 people — rose slightly to 21.20 percent by August-end compared with 20.52 percent by July-end, the data showed.

Among the wireless operators, India’s top mobile company Bharti Airtel added 2.05 million users in August, taking its subscriber base to 46.8 million. The fixed-line segment stood at 39.73 million subscribers at the end of August while broadband connections rose by 90,000 to reach 2.56 million.

India’s mobile revolution is mainly confined to the cities, but the real prize for phone companies is the vast rural market, where nearly 70 percent of India’s 1.1 billion population live, analysts say. The government is aiming for more than half a billion mobile phone subscribers by 2010. By the end of 2008, three-quarters of India’s population will be covered by a mobile network. Many of the people in these new areas to be covered by mobile networks live in poor, rural districts with scarce health and education facilities and high illiteracy rates. The government says boosting telecommunications use is key to socio-economic development in these areas.