Our Bureau

New Delhi, May 21

India's cellular subscriber base is set to rise to 1.159 billion by the end of 2013, making it the world's largest mobile market, according to London-based Informa Telecoms and Media's latest forecast.

This will represent an extraordinary growth since 2000 when there were just 3.2 million active mobile subscriptions. Conversely, growth in China is set to slow down, and by the end of 2013, the number of active mobile subscriptions will be 1.106 billion.

“There are two main factors fuelling this growth in India - increased competition and the prevalence of multi-SIM activity. With just three national operators in China, there is just not the same level of competition as in India, and therefore not the same febrile atmosphere surrounding pricing and promotional activity,” explains Ms Shannon Keefe, senior market forecaster at Informa Telecoms and Media.

Not only will India surpass China in terms of the total number of active subscriptions by 2013, but, according to Informa's forecasts, the Indian market will have a higher subscription penetration rate (75 per cent ) than China's by the end of 2011 (69 per cent ). By the end of 2014, India's subscription penetration will be 101 per cent .

This serves to accentuate the preponderance of multi-SIM activity in India and the speed with which cellular communications have spread to the mass market.

However the bad news for operators is that when it comes to revenues, India will continue to lag behind. Informa Telecoms and Media projects that, by the end of 2013, the Chinese mobile market will be worth approximately $107.5 billion, as compared to India's mobile market, which is set to be worth approximately $35.5 billion.

Market share

Bharti Airtel, currently the market leader with over 127.6 million active subscriptions and a 22 per cent share of the market, will lose market share to the new entrants. Informa projects that Bharti's share of the market will fall to about 19 per cent by the end of 2013 (233 million subscriptions).

Newcomers such as Telenor, Etisalat and Videocon, will, between them, account for about 5 per cent of the total market by then.

Informa projects that India's mobile data market will be worth approximately $9 billion in 2014, up from $2.3 billion in 2008.


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 22, 2010)
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