Indian Telecom Sector
A) Significant Policy changes and the roadmap: An Ordinance has been
promulgated on 30.10.2006 as the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Ordinance
2006 to amend the Indian Telecom Act, 1885 in order to enable support for mobile
services and broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas of the country.
Subsequently, an Act has been passed on 29.12.2006 as the Indian Telegraph
(Amendment) Act, 2006 to amend the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. The Rules for
administration of the Fund under this Ordinance, Indian Telegraph (Amendment)
Rules 2006 have been published on 17.11.2006. The summary of the new USF
activities being taken up under the Rules are as given below:
i) Creation of infrastructure for provision of Mobile Services in rural and
A scheme is being launched by the Government to provide support for setting up
and managing infrastructure sites for provision of mobile services in the specified
rural and remote areas of the country, where there is no existing fixed wireless or
ii) Provision of Broadband connectivity to villages in a phased manner
With the aim to provide e-governance and data services to the rural masses, a
proposal is also under consideration of the Government to provide subsidy
support for Broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas of the country in a
phased manner by utilizing the infrastructure created for provision of mobile
services. The broad parameters under which the connectivity is required to be
provided are being worked out. The detailed scheme in this regard is being
iii) Creation of general infrastructure in rural and remote areas for
development of telecommunication facilities.
iv) Induction of new technological developments in the telecom sector in
rural and remote areas.
B) Policy Initiatives taken and Targets
Network Expansion: The Indian Telecommunications network, with about 190
million connections and tele-density of about 16.83% by December 2006 is the
fastest growing market in the world and has emerged as one of the key sectors
responsible for India’s resurgent economic growth. A target has been set for
providing 250 million telephone connections by December 2007 and 500 million
mobile by December 2010. Efforts are being made for mobile coverage of
geographical area of 85% by 2007 and 90% by 2010.
The project at a cost of Rs. 980 crore for release of 45 MHz. spectrum from other
user organization for growth of mobile services has been launched. This
additional spectrum is likely to be made available by June, 2007.
Mobile Operators' Shared Tower (MOST)
The project for sharing of passive and active infrastructure and network operating
expenses by mobile operators has been launched in Delhi and Mumbai. It aims at
reducing the number of towers in the skyline of the city, optimal utilization of
resources and reduction in clearances from local agencies. The sharing of
infrastructure will be increased in urban areas from present 25% to 40% by 2007
and 70% by 2010.
Focus has been laid on localization and development of local content to help
bridge digital divide in development of tools and fonts in all major Indian
languages by 2007.
Further, it has been planned to announce 3G Policy, introduction of Internet
Protocol TV (IPTV) in 70 towns and Mobile TV in top 20 cities/towns in 2007.
Rural Telephony: 90% of the villages have already been provided with Village
Public Telephones (VPT). Under Bharat Nirman, out of 66,822 uncovered
villages, 38,795 villages have been provided VPTs till December 2006.
Remaining villages will be provided with VPTs by November 2007.
Emphasis is being given to the technologies having potential to improve rural
connectivity. To facilitate speedy rural penetration, efforts are on to make
available the mobile handsets at about Rs. 1000/-. A target has been set for 50
million rural connections by 2007 and 80 million by 2010.
With the passing of the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Bill 2006, USO support
will be provided for the mobile services and Broadband connectivity in rural areas.
USO subsidy support scheme will be utilized for shares wireless infrastructure in
rural areas with about 8,000 towers by 2007 and 10,000 more by 2010. A target
has been set for reduction of urban-rural digital divide from present 25:1 to 5:1 by
year 2010. Support is being extended for rural household telephone connections
on landline and Fixed Wireless Terminals (FWTs) in 1685 Short Distance
Charging Areas (SDCAs) out of a total of 2647 SDCAs.
Broadband: The Year 2007 has been declared the year of broadband. The
broadband penetration has not increased as expected and at present 2 million
broadband connections have been provided, covering more than 600 towns.
Target has been set for 9 million broadband connections with maximum speed
upto 2 mbps by 2007 and 20 million connections by 2010 and providing
Broadband connectivity to all secondary and higher secondary schools, public
health institutions and panchayats by 2008.
In rural areas, connectivity of 512 KBPS with ADSL 2 plus technology (on wire)
will be provided from about 20,000 existing exchanges in rural areas having
optical fibre connectivity. Community Service Centres, secondary schools, banks,
health centres, Panchayats, police stations etc. can be provided with this
connectivity in the vicinity of above mentioned 20,000 exchanges in rural areas.
DoT will be subsidizing the infrastructure cost of Broadband network through
support from USO Fund to ensure that Broadband services are available to users
at affordable tariffs.
Roll out of Broadband services in the remaining areas of the country will be done
on wireless media with a minimum speed of 512 KBPS. This coverage is
proposed to be extended before the end of 2007.
Research and Development: For pre-eminence of India as a technology
solution provider it has been planned to provide affordable technology for masses,
comprehensive security infrastructure for telecom network, tested infrastructure
for enabling interoperability in Next General Network and doubling the telecom
equipment R&D by 2010 from the present level of 10%.
International Bandwidth: Government is facilitating availability of adequate
international bandwidth at competitive prices to drive ITES sector at faster growth.
C) Status of Telecom Sector and achievements:
The Indian Telecommunications network with 203 million connections is the third
largest in the world and the second largest among the emerging economies of
Asia. Today, it is the fastest growing market in the world. The telecommunication
sector continued to register significant success during the year and has emerged
as one of the key sectors responsible for India’s resurgent India’s economic
growth. The sector, which was growing in the range of 20 to 25 per cent up to the
year 2002-03, has moved to a higher growth path of an average rate of 40-45 per
cent during the last two years. This rapid growth has been possible due to various
proactive and positive decisions of the Government and contribution of both by
the public and the private sector. The rapid strides in the telecom sector have
been facilitated by liberal policies of the Government that provide easy market
access for telecom equipment and a fair regulatory framework for offering telecom
services to the Indian consumers at affordable prices. The Government has taken
following main initiatives for the growth of the Telecom Sector:
• All telecom services have been opened up for free competition for
• Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Basic and cellular, Unified Access
Services, National/ International Long Distance, V-Sat, Public Mobile Radio
Trunk Services (PMRTS), Global Mobile Personal Communications
Services (GMPCS) and other value added telecom services is permitted up
to 74% (including FDI, FII, NRI, FCCBs, ADRs, GDRs, convertible
preference shares, and proportionate foreign equity in Indian promoters/
• Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Manufacturing of Telecom Equipments
is permitted up to 100% under automatic route.
• 217 ITA-I items are at zero Customs Duty. Specified capital goods and all
inputs required to manufacture ITA-I, items are at zero Customs Duty.
• Availability of low cost mobile handsets.
• The international Long Distance Services (ILDS) opened with effect from
• Calling Party Pays (CPP) regime was implemented with effect from 1st May
• Guidelines for Unified Access Service License regime were issued in
November 2003, 27 licenses out of 31 Basic Service Licenses were
converted to Unified Access Service Licenses.
• In April 2004, license fee for Unified Access Service Providers (UAS) was
reduced by 2%.
• License fee for infrastructure Provider-II reduced from 15% to 6% of the
Adjusted Gross Revenue in June 2004.
• Entry fee for NLD licenses was reduced to Rs. 2.5 Crore from Rs. 100
Crore. Entry fee for ILD reduced to Rs. 2.5 Crore from Rs. 25 Crore.
• Lease line charges have been reduced to make the bandwidth available at
competitive prices to facilitate growth in IT enabled services.
• One India plan i.e. single tariff of Re. 1/- per minute to anywhere in India
was introduced from 1st March 2006 by the Public Sector Undertakings.
This tariff was emulated by most of the private service providers also. This
scheme has led to death of distance in telecommunication and is going to
be instrumental in promoting National Integration further.
• The robust telecom network has also facilitated the expansion of BPO
industry that is having 500,000 employees now and adding 400 employees
• Annual license fee for National Long Distance (NLD), International Long
Distance (ILD), Infrastructure Provider-II, VSAT commercial and Internet
Service Provider (ISP) with internet telephony (restricted) licenses was
reduced to 6% of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) w.e.f. Jan 2006.
• The Government’s policy is neutral on use of technology by telecom
service providers subject to availability of scarce resources such as
• Licence Fees 6-10% of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR)
• The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) was set up in March’
1997 as a regulator for Telecom sector. The TRAI’s functions are
recommendatory, regulatory and tariff setting in telecom sector.
• Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) came into
existence in May, 2000. TDSAT has been empowered to adjudicate
any dispute -
between a licensor and a licensee
between two or more service providers
between a service provider and a group of consumers
hear and dispose of appeal against any direction, decision or order of
• Tariffs for telecommunication services have evolved from a regime where
tariffs were determined by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to a
regime where tariffs are largely under forbearance. TRAI intervenes by
regulating the tariffs for only those services, the markets of which are not
• Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) exclusively for meeting the
Universal Service Obligation was established in April’2002. The Universal
Service Levy is presently 5% of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) of all
telecom service providers except the pure value added service providers
like Internet, Voice Mail, E-Mail service providers etc. Indian Telegraph Act
has been amended in October’2006 to provide support for all telegraph
services including mobile and broadband to bridge the digital divide.
National Long Distance
There is now no limit on the number of service providers in this sector. The
licence for National Long Distance service is issued for a period of 20 years,
extendable by 10 years at one time. The annual licence fee including USO
contribution is @ 6% of the Adjusted Gross Revenue and the fee /royalty for the
use of spectrum and possession of wireless telegraphy equipment are payable
separately. At present 16 NLD (14 Private and 2 Public Sector Undertaking)
service providers are there.
International Long Distance
In the field of international telephony, India had agreed under the GATS to review
its opening up in 2004. However, open competition in this sector was allowed with
effect from April 2002 itself. There is now no limit on the number of service
providers in this sector. The licence for ILD service is issued initially for a period of
20 years, with automatic extension of the licence by a period of 5 years. The
annual licence fee including USO contribution is @ 6% of the Adjusted Gross
Revenue and the fee/royalty for the use of spectrum and possession of wireless
telegraphy equipment are payable separately. At present 10 ILD service providers
(9 Private and 1 Public Sector Undertaking) are there. As per current roll out
obligations under ILD license, the licensee undertakes to fulfill the minimum
network roll out obligations for installing at least one Gateway Switch having
appropriate interconnections with atleast one National Long Distance service
licensee. There is no bar in setting up of Point of Presence (PoP) or Gateway
switches in remaining location of Level I TAXs. Preferably, these PoPs should
conform to Open Network Architecture (ONA) i.e. should be based on
internationally accepted standards to ensure seamless working with other
Unified Access Services
Unified access license regime was introduced in November’2003. Unified Access
Services operators are free to provide, within their area of operation, services
which cover collection, carriage, transmission and delivery of voice and/or non-
voice messages over Licensee’s network by deploying circuit and/or packet
switched equipment. Further, the Licensee can also provide Voice Mail, Audiotex
services, Video Conferencing, Videotex, E-Mail, Closed User Group (CUG) as
Value Added Services over its network to the subscribers falling within its service
area on non-discriminatory basis. The country is divided into 23 Service
Areas consisting of 19 Telecom Circle and 4 Metro Service Areas for providing
Unified Access Services (UAS). The licence for Unified Access Services is issued
on non-exclusive basis, for a period of 20 years, extendable by 10 years at one
time within the territorial jurisdiction of a licensed Service Area. The licence Fee is
10%, 8% & 6% of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) for Metro and Category `A’,
Category `B’ and Category `C’ Service Areas, respectively. Revenue and the
fee/royalty for the use of spectrum and possession of wireless telegraphy
equipment are payable separately. The frequencies are assigned by WPC wing of
the Department of Telecommunications from the frequency bands earmarked in
the applicable National Frequency Allocation Plan and in coordination with various
users subject to availability of scarce spectrum. At present 3 to 6 service providers
(2-5 Private and 1 Public Sector Undertaking) are there in most of the service
Internet and Internet Telephony Service Providers
Internet services were opened to private sector in November’1998 without internet
telephony. The token licence fee is Re.1 for Internet Services. The Internet with
Telephony (computer to computer, SIP to SIP and computer to out side India) was
opened in April 2002. The licence fee is 6% of AGR for Internet Telephony. There
are 385 internet service providers and 125 internet telephony service providers.
Growth of subscribers
The telecom sector has shown robust growth during the past few years. It has
also undergone a substantial change in terms of mobile versus fixed phones and
public versus private participation. The following table shows the growth of
telecom sector since 2002:
Subscribers’ base (in Million)
March’02 March’03 March’04 March’05 March’06 Dec.’06
Fixed lines 38.29 41.33 40.92 41.42 40.23 40.32
CDMA 0.25 0.61 9.46 15.92 32.67 44.17
GSM 6.43 12.69 26.15 41.03 69.19 105.42
6.68 13.30 35.61 56.95 101.86 149.59
Gross Total 44.97 54.63 76.53 98.37 142.09 189.91
3.23 3.64 4.55 5.55 7.05 8.6
- - - 0.18 1.32 2.03
Thus, the number of telephones has increased from 44.97 million as on 31.03.02
to 142.09 million as on 31.03.06 and 190 million till December 2006 and 203
million by Feb. 2007. Wireless subscribers increased from 6.68 million as on
31.03.02 to 101.86 as on 31.03.06 and 149.6 million as on 31.12.06.
With the opening of telecom sector to the private operators, their share in the
number of subscribers has been steadily increasing which is evident from the
Number of Telephones (in million)
Year PSU PSU Total Private Private Total Grand %age
(March) Fixed Wireless PSU Fixed Wireless Private Total share
2002 37.70 0.47 38.17 0.59 6.21 6.80 44.97 84.88
2003 40.02 3.16 43.18 1.31 10.14 11.45 54.63 79.04
2004 39.77 6.71 46.48 1.15 28.90 30.05 76.53 60.73
2005 39.87 12.21 42.08 1.55 44.74 46.29 88.37 47.62
2006 39.25 21.83 61.08 0.98 80.03 81.01 142.09 42.99
Dec.,’06 37.27 29.20 66.47 3.05 120.39 123.44 189.91 35.0
The share of private sector in the number of telephones has increased from
15.12% (6.80 million telephones) in March 2002 to 65.0% (123.44 million
telephones) in December 2006.
The preference for use of wireless phones has also been predominant in the
sector. This is confirmed from the rising share of wireless phones, which
increased from 14.85% (6.68 million telephones) in March 2002 to 78.8% (149.59
million telephones) in December 2006. At present, the mobile subscriber
additions in India is more than 6 million mark, the highest in the world.
Trend in Tele-density
Tele density in the country has steadily increased from 4.29% as on 31.3.02 to
16.83% as on 31.12.2006. The rural telephony has not kept pace with the
impressive growth in urban connectivity.
The Indian Telecom Sector has witnessed major changes in the tariff structure.
The Telecommunication Tariff Order (TTO) 1999, issued by regulator (TRAI), had
begun the process of tariff balancing with a view to bring them closer to the costs.
This supplemented by Calling Party Pay (CPP), reduction in ADC and the
increased competition, has resulted in a dramatic fall in the tariffs.
The peak National Long Distance tariff for above 1000 Kms. in 2000
has come down from US$ 0.67 per minute to US$ 0.02 per minute in
The International Long Distance tariff from US$ 1.36 per minute in 2000
to US$ 0.16 per minute in 2004 for USA, Canada & UK.
The mobile tariff for local calls has reduced from US$0.36 per minute in
1999 to US$ 0.009 - US$ 0.04 per minute in 2006.
The Average Revenue Per User of mobile is between US$ 5.06 - US$
7.82 per month
Manufacture of Telecom Equipment
Rising demand for a wide range of telecom equipment, particularly in the area of
mobile telecommunication, has provided excellent opportunities to domestic and
foreign investors in the manufacturing sector. The last two years saw many
renowned telecom companies setting up their manufacturing base in India.
Ericsson has set up GSM Radio Base Station Manufacturing facility in Jaipur.
Elcoteq has set up handset manufacturing facilities in Bangalore. Nokia set up its
manufacturing plant in Chennai. LG Electronics set up plant of manufacturing
GSM mobile phones near Pune. Ericsson recently launched their R&D Centre in
Chennai. Flextronics has set up an SEZ in Chennai. Motorola is likely to go into
production in the first quarter of 2007. Other major companies like Foxconn,
Aspcom, Solectron etc have decided to set up their manufacturing bases in India.
The aim is for US$ 2 billion FDI in manufacturing, doubling the production in 2007
and quadrupling it in 2010. Target has been set for achieving exports of 6 times
from present level of 0.5 billion in 2010.
The Government has already set up Telecom Equipment and Services Export
Promotion Forum and Telecom Testing and Security Certification Centre (TETC).
A large number of companies like Alcatel, Cisco have also shown interest in
setting up their R&D centers in India. With above initiatives India is expected to
be a manufacturing hub for the telecom equipment.