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The nation that talks a lot

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Thomas K. Thomas

New Delhi, Jan. 21

WHEN it comes to talking on the phone, Indians are among the heavy users in the world.

According to data compiled by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Indian subscribers are the fifth heaviest phone users at 309 minutes per month per subscriber. While subscribers in the US talk the most at 619 minutes a month, those staying in Canada are the second highest users with an average usage of 344 minutes a month. Telephone usage in India ranks higher than the fastest growing telecom market in the world - China, where subscribers talk an average of 261 minutes a month. Other developed countries such as the UK and France, where the tele-density is much higher, are behind the Indian consumers when it comes to usage.

According to the survey, conducted by Merryl Lynch in September 2004 across 40 major telecom markets, the average usage is about 235 minutes per month per subscriber.

"Telephone usage is a direct outcome of the low tariffs prevailing in the country.

"India has one of the lowest tariffs in the world, and, therefore, the usage is on the higher side," said a telecom analyst.

While average tariffs in India is 4 cents (Rs 1.74) per minute, the average across 40 countries is about 13 cents (Rs 5.67) per minute. Germany, which has a high rate of 33 cents (Rs 14.40) per minute records only 74 minutes of usage per month per subscriber.

But when it comes to revenue, Indian operators are among the lowest earners. Compared to $57 (Rs 2,400) per subscriber earned by the US operators in a month, Indian operators get about $11 (Rs 470) per month from every subscriber.

Operators in Switzerland earn about $59 (Rs 2,500) per month from subscriber who talk an average of 119 minutes a month after paying about 4 cents per month.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 22, 2005)
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