After what might be described as a humble start, growth in India's mobile sector rapidly picked up pace and developed a sustained momentum, aided by higher subscriber volumes, lower tariffs and falling handset prices. And of course it has been progressively moving into new generation platforms and therefore steadily transitioning from voice to data. The market has also seen a group of global operators working with local companies, and this mix combined with the interesting process of licensing operators over 26 so-called circles' added to the intriguing dynamic of the Indian mobile.
The growth in India's booming mobile market mobile market effectively stalled during 2012 and the market looked quite subdued coming into 2013. Mobile operators had added 370 million new subscribers to their networks in 2010/2011, an average of 15 million per month over that two year period, to bring the total number of subscribers to around 900 million by the start of 2012. The year heralded the start of a somewhat erratic period in the development of the subscriber base that saw 2012 end with just 865 million subscribers. The drop in subscriber numbers was a combination of falling customer demand and the effect of operators cleaning out' their data bases. By 2014/2015, the market had sorted itself out to a large extent and subscriber growth was running at a steady 7% per annum. In the meantime, there has been a major push to take mobile services into the poorer and rural areas of the country, a move that inevitably weighed down on ARPU.
India's auctioning of telecom licences has been plagued by problems. In 2010 the long-awaited 3G auctions finally took place. In 2010/2011 the 3G networks were rolled out and services delivered to customers. But things went sour for the mobile industry in particular when a scandal broke over the awarding of 2G licences in 2008. This took centre stage at the beginning of 2012. The Supreme Court directed that 122 licences awarded four years earlier be cancelled, throwing the sector into chaos. Further court decisions and the subsequent responses of the regulators were central to the eventual outcome. The cancelled licences were successfully re-auctioned after three attempts. The market was starting to gain some balance once more as the various disputes were resolved or moved closer to resolution. Despite the problems the market continues to move forward and by mid-2015 we were seeing much energy going into the launching or preparing to launch 4G services.
This report looks at the mobile market in India and presents a set of relevant market statistics. It also examines the technology platforms already in place and those being put in place. And finally the report looks at the range of mobile voice and data services in India.
India's mobile subscriber base grew by 7% in 2014 and was growing at a similar rate in 2015; mobile penetration had reached 77%, with room for further growth; mobile ARPUs appeared to be stabilising and even seeing modest growth; by 2015 the so-called 2G scandal of 2012 was still reverberating in the market; the re-auction of 2G licences had taken place in three stages, finishing in early 2014; India's 3G market was growing steadily, but certainly not as fast as hoped; a dispute over 3G roaming rights saw the TDSAT rule in favour of the operators in 2014; India has overhauled Japan to become the world's third largest smartphone market; Vodafone India launched its mobile wallet service M-Pesa in conjunction with ICICI Bank the Airtel Money service has been a runaway success. Bharti Airtel was operating a TD-LTE network by the start of 2015; It had also launched an FDD LTE trial by June 2015; Aircel had launched 4G services; Vodafone was set to launch 4G in Calcutta, Mumbai and Delhi by December 2015; Reliance Jio was preparing to launch its 4G network by early 2016; Idea Cellular was to launch LTE services in January 2016; BSNL was preparing to launch 4G by March 2016.