While the cellular subscription across the country has crossed the fixed line users base, in reality more than 50 per cent of the circles have a higher number of fixed line subscribers compared to mobile users.
Of the 23 telecom circles in the country, mobile subscriber base is higher than the fixed line users in just 10 circles. Thanks to cellular operators' strategy of rolling out their network across top cities, the gap between mobile subscriber base and fixed line users is still wide in States like Maharashtra and Kerala.
In Maharashtra, for instance, the fixed line user base is almost one million ahead of the mobile numbers. In Kerala, the gap is even higher with fixed line user base at 3.6 million compared to 2.1 million mobile users. "Private cellular operators are not going into the interiors of the country while fixed line telephone has reached over 6 lakh villages. The reason is obviously the higher cost of operation in going into the interiors and the expectations of low returns compared to a city," says a senior official in the Department of Telecom.
But cellular operators say that its only a matter of time when mobile numbers cross the fixed line across all the states. "The gap between mobile and fixed line telephone is not more than a few lakhs in most States. While fixed line networks have been built over decades, cellular operators have been in business for just about 10 years. Its only a matter of time before mobile numbers cross the fixed line user base across all the states," said a cellular operator. Thanks to the huge growth rate in the metro cities of Delhi and Mumbai where mobile subscription is almost double that of fixed line users base, the overall cellular numbers have gone beyond the fixed line telephone numbers. In Delhi, for instance, the mobile base is 4.9 million compared to just 2 million fixed line telephones.
Other States where the cellular operators have to do some catching up is West Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, and the North-Eastern region.