Thomas K. Thomas

New Delhi, Dec. 11

CELLULAR uptake in the country is picking up so rapidly that operators now have a waiting list, something which consumers used to dread when fixed line telephones were popular.

While the State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd has reported over 1.4 million subscribers on its waiting list, private cellular operators admit to not being able to offer connections to everyone for lack of capacity on their network.

Augmenting capacity: Senior BSNL officials said the company had started maintaining a waiting list because release of connection has been temporarily controlled. They said the company was in the process of augmenting the cellular mobile capacity and the waiting list is likely to be cleared by the end of the current financial year.

BSNL's mobile waiting list is almost as high as its fixed line list, which has 1.6 million users awaiting a connection as on September 2005.

There are more than three million new users added by cellular operators across the country. BSNL itself added close to six lakh users in November. However, the delay in rolling out its network has held back BSNL's expansion plans.

Lack of spectrum: Private operators, on the other hand, blame the lack of adequate spectrum for turning away consumers. "Though we do not keep a waiting list, there are cities where our networks are choked because of which we cannot give out connection as per the demand. Our subscriber base would have grown much faster if we were able to expand our capacity. The Government must quickly release spectrum if we have to meet targets of 250 million subscribers by 2007," said a CDMA-based private mobile operator.

BSNL is even charging a fee for keeping users on its waiting list. An amount of Rs 551 is collected at the time of booking a pre-paid connection. However, when a connection is issued the subscriber is given a recharge coupon of Rs 300 to adjust the registration amount.

Related Stories:
Phone subscriber base up 3.79 m in November
2.3 million new cell users added in Nov

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 12, 2005)
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