The total telephone subscriber base in India reached 1.18 billion (118 crore) at the end of February 2017 even as the monthly growth rate fell from 2% in January to 1.17%. During February, the country witnessed a net addition of 13.75 million (1.375 crore) wireless and wireline telephone subscribers. “The number of telephone subscribers in India increased from 1174.80 million (117.48 crore) at the end of Jan-17 to 1188.55 million (118.855 crore) at the end of Feb-17,” said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
While urban telephone subscribers rose from 671.63 million (67.163 crore) to 692.15 million (69.215 crore), rural telephone subscribers registered a paltry growth of 3.83 million (0.383 crore) thereby putting the final count at 496.39 million (49.639 crore). “The monthly growth rates of urban and rural subscription were 1.62% and 0.56% respectively during the month of Feb-17,” added TRAI. After observing the data published by TRAI, Prof. NK Goyal was hopeful that Indian villages will soon be more effectively powered by mobile phones.
“The government is proactively working towards increasing telephone subscription in rural areas through schemes such as BharatNet,” said Goyal, President, CMAI Association of India. Presently, urban subscribers constitute 58.24% of the entire telephone subscriber base with their rural counterparts trailing at 41.76%. According to Goyal, the real question does not pertain to the share of urban and rural areas viz-a-viz telephone subscription. “Every Indian should have a telephone,” he added, highlighting the notion as the eventual target.
Moreover, he pointed out that the area-wise distribution figures may not be that accurate as several persons have more than one SIM card. However, the rural-urban divide manifested itself even in the tele-density figures. Tele-density is an assessment of the number of telephone connections per hundred individuals in a given area. Though urban tele-density stood at 171.86%, rural tele-density lagged much behind at 56.35%.
Sanjay Trehan, Business Head of Digital Content & Syndication at HT Media pointed out that the rural consumer is very price conscious. Therefore, it is important to make him/her aware of the availability, benefits, and usage of telephones to improve tele-density in rural areas. “Ultimately, it will depend upon infrastructure and making services available at the right price point,” said Trehan. Appreciating the work done by the public and private sector in rural areas, he batted for devising a wholesome approach towards infrastructure right from the construction of towers to the point of sale.
The state-wise breakdown of tele-density data published by TRAI also revealed a few noteworthy trends. Interestingly, the insurgency-hit state of Jammu & Kashmir, where the government recently suspended internet services, recorded a tele-density of 94.34% which was above the national average of 92.59%. The highest tele-density was found in the union territory of Delhi followed by states such as Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab.