New Delhi: Indian telecom firms added 8.53 million wireless subscribers in February, maintaining the world’s fastest pace of growth and putting the country on course to become the largest market after China by mid-April.
India has been adding 8-9 million wireless users a month, compared with China’s 6-7 million and 2-3 million monthly signings in the United States, thanks to call rates as low as 1 US cent a minute and cheaper handsets.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said on Monday the country had 250.93 million wireless users at end-February, against 256 million in the United States and an estimated 540.5 million in China.
With only a quarter of India’s more than a billion people having access to a phone now, the potential for growth was huge.
The regulator said India could topple the United States for the second spot by mid-April.
“India’s wireless subscriber base will surpass that of USA. and will become second largest wireless network in the world,” it said in a statement.
Top mobile operator Bharti Airtel led the subscriber growth, adding 2.26 million new customers in February, while No. 2 Reliance Communications added 1.61 million.
Unlisted Vodafone Essar, controlled by Britain’s Vodafone Plc added 1.41 million mobile customers in February.
As the total wireless subscribers in India surged by more than a half in February from a year earlier, fixed-line telephones continued to contract as more users shifted to mobile phones, the regulator’s data showed.
Fixed-line users dropped by 1.6 million between April and February to 39.18 million.
Total fixed-line and wireless subscribers should exceed 300 million by April from 290.11 million at end-February, the regulator said.