Light Reading says recent upheaval in India’s mobile phone market has impacted their growth curve.
The country’s regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) , officially wiped two of the country’s mobile operators, Etisalat DB (formerly known as Swan Telecom) and S Tel , from its monthly subscriber count, wiping out a total of 4.2 million mobile connections from the market.
India’s Supreme Court sent shockwaves through the country’s mobile sector earlier this year by cancelling all 122 of the 2G licenses that were awarded under controversial circumstances in 2008.
The administration at the time – led by former telecoms minister A Raja – was accused of selling-off the 2G licences on a first-come-first served basis and potentially costing the country $39 billion it would have made if it had conducted a competitive bidding auction.
The allocation of spectrum and licences by the government in 2008, led to the arrest of a former communications minister Andimuthu Raja, a member of Parliament, business executives, and government officials. The 2G licences were issued at 2001 prices without an auction.
Since 3G licenses were first awarded to mobile operators in India in September 2010, connectivity has grown steadily. There are now more than 10 million HSPA connections across the country, with more than 100 million connections expected by 2014. This will make India the largest HSPA market worldwide within the next two years, surpassing China, Japan and the US in the process.
Big winners in the 2.3 GHz (4G) auction, held in 2010, included Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone Essar, and Tikona Digital Networks. The decision by Reliance and Qualcomm to back LTE TDD, made the LTE standard an unstoppable force, especially when combined with China’s support for Time Division LTE.
As a result of TRAI’s adjustment in spectrum rights (See LightReading: 2G Verdict: SC Cancels 122 Licenses and India in Shock as 122 Licenses Canceled), India’s mobile sector officially only grew by 1.85 million in April, much lower than usual.
India has now recorded 921.02 million mobile connections, of which 686.58 million were active during April, according to TRAI’s Visitor Location Register (VLR) data.
Bharti Airtel Ltd. is still the clear market leader with a 19.90% market share, as the table (above) shows, followed by Reliance Communications (16.67%), Vodafone India (16.43%), Idea Cellular (12.40%), and BSNL (10.62%)
A carriers’ minority holdings (meaning, any assets that they own less than 50 percent of) are excluded from this list. So, for example, Vodafone and Verizon Wireless are listed separately, since Vodafone does not have a majority ownership of Verizon Wireless.
According to Wireless Intelligence, China, India and Indonesia have been growing at a rapid pace. The top five spots held by China Mobile, Vodafone, América Móvil, Telefónica, and Bharti Airtel have remained unchanged during the past year. They all have over 200 million subscribers.
US market-leader Verizon Wireless with 106 million subs (#13) fell two positions from last year, while rival AT&T, with 98.6 million subs (#16) was unchanged. Like the mature European operators, however, mobile revenues were significantly higher than at their emerging market counterparts.