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Cell firms regain lost ground

06-February-2004
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Cell firms regain lost ground

Cellular telecom operators seem to be regaining lost ground. They snapped up close to 1.37 million new subscribers in January, while slightly over 200,000 people signed up for CDMA-based mobile telephone services last month.

This is the first time in six months that the gap between new GSM and CDMA subscribers has gone over 600,000. In July last year, CDMA operators had overtaken cellular firms in new subscriptions.

The slowdown in CDMA growth is primarily because Reliance Infocomm, which was adding over 400,000 users every month on average, managed to sign on only 170,000 new users in January.

In December, too, GSM networks had added 1.2 million users while CDMA networks added over 600,000 users. In previous months, CDMA operators were matching GSM operators by adding close to 1 million new subscribers.

Commenting on the situation, T V Ramachandran, director-general, Cellular Operators Association of India, said: “This means the market is stabilising. India is falling in line with the global trend, where 80 per cent of new mobile users are being added on GSM networks.”

S C Khanna, secretary-general, Association of Basic Telecom Operators, said: “While the dip in growth is a matter of concern, it would not be fair to compare with GSM growth since there are 72 GSM networks in the country against 25 CDMA networks. The launch of CDMA pre-paid cards is likely to ramp up numbers in the coming months.”

This, however, takes the number of mobile telephone subscribers at the end of January to over 30 million, of which 6.4 million are in CDMA networks.

Reliance Infocomm continues to be the largest mobile telecom operator with 6.4 million cell users, including 700,000 users of its GSM network in the Northeast. Bharti, with 5.8 million subscribers, is second.

The growth in BSNL’s subscriber base has also slowed down, to just over 120,000 new users, because of network capacity constraints.

BSNL had garnered almost 4 million subscribers within a year of the launch of its mobile telephone service.

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