India - Telecommunications Infrastructure and Forecasts
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 receive the bulk of the local capital expenditure as the operators continue to build out their infrastructure; a national optical fibre network project has been launched; the shakeout from the so-called 2G scandal continued to bring uncertainty to the telecom market, impacting to some extent on investment and infrastructure development; fixed-line subscriber numbers continue to decline falling to 28 million by mid-2014; the total number of connected villages' in India has passed 99%; ISRO communications satellite GSAT-10 launched in September 2012; the government was moving to further boost mobile coverage in rural India with a INR30 billion (US$490 million) allocation from the USOF in 2013; new mobile player Reliance Jio Infocomm was busy signing many tower sharing agreements in order to provide extensive network coverage at launch in late 2014.