India has a huge national telecommunications network. With fixed-line penetration falling below 3%, the country has nevertheless achieved a remarkable coverage, 99% of the population having some form of access to a telephone. Despite the heavy investment in telecoms infrastructure over the last decade, servicing the huge population has presented major difficulties. Even the booming mobile phone market had around 76% penetration by early 2013. As well as its huge national network, India's investment in telecommunications infrastructure over the last decade has extended to a heavy involvement in the international market. Under the leadership of international operator VSNL/Tata Indicom the country has been assembling an extensive infrastructure of gateways, satellite earth stations and fibre optic submarine cables. Billions of rupees continue to be invested in a combination of submarine cables and microwave systems to satisfy India's demand for international bandwidth and high-quality connectivity. Most significantly, VSNL/Tata Indicom has become a serious international player on the back of a series of acquisitions and good strategic moves.
Investment in infrastructure has to a significant extent depended on India attracting foreign investment into the sector. The attractiveness of India to foreign telecom operators took a nosedive in 2012 when the so-called 2G scandal resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that saw 122 mobile licences cancelled. The subsequent regulatory uncertainty could only be described as chaotic; however, by 2013 the situation was starting to settle down as disputes were gradually resolved.
This report provides an update on telecoms infrastructure in India as the government and the operators push forward on a number of fronts to speed up the roll-out of services to the wider population. It also provides an overview of the submarine and satellite systems that have been put in place in recent times as the country addresses its international bandwidth needs.
India's mobile market continues to get the bulk of local capital expenditure as the operators expand their infrastructure;
a national optical fibre network (NOFN) project has been launched;
by March 2015 fibre-optic links to 5,000 villages had been rolled out as part of the NOFN;
years after the event, the shakeout from the so-called 2G scandal continues to cause uncertainty in the telecom market, impacting on investment and infrastructure development;
fixed-line subscriber numbers remain in decline falling to 26.5 million by march 2015;
the total number of connected villages' in India has passed 99%;
ISRO communications satellite GSAT-7 has been launched with GSAT-15 to follow;
new mobile player Reliance Jio Infocomm has signed numerous tower sharing agreements to provide extensive network coverage at launch in late 2015.
Companies covered in this report include:
Bharti Airtel, Idea/Spice, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, Vodafone Essar, Bharti Telenet, Reliance Infocomm, Tata Teleservices, Tulip Telecom, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), Tata Indicom, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Quippo Telecom.