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Highest ever GSM additions in March
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The telecom juggernaut continued unabated despite an economic slowdown, with GSM technology service providers setting a new record by crossing the 10-million subscriber mark in March.

In January this year, GSM players had recorded a 9.69 million increase in subscriber numbers, which included Reliance Communications’ figures.

According to figures released by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) today, GSM players added 10.84 million new subscribers in March, taking total GSM subscriptions for the fiscal year to 288.3 million. GSM services account for around 75 per cent of mobile subscriptions.

The numbers exclude subscriptions for Reliance Communications, the CDMA service provider that recently launched GSM services, because the company does not reveal GSM numbers separately.

If the estimates of 2.5 million to 2.7 million GSM subscribers for Reliance Communications are added, the total monthly increase for GSM subscriptions will be 13.54 million.

At this rate, India’s GSM subscriber base is growing at more than double the monthly growth rate of China, which is adding around 6 million customers every month. With over 600 million mobile customers, however, China is far ahead of India in terms of the mobile subscriber base.

“Though March has more days and companies push sales at the end of the financial year, we expect to see monthly incremental growth of 14 to 15 million consumers in 2009-10. Our estimate is that mobile penetration will go up from 35 per cent currently to 50 per cent by the end of this financial year,” said TV Ramachandran, COAI secretary- general.

The COAI has predicted that India will have around 500 million GSM subscribers by the end of 2009-10 and over 800 million by 2012 . The country would hit the one billion market in a few years after that, the COAI said.

[Image: 2welzlv.jpg]

Much of the growth has come from state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, which added over 2.5 million subscribers in March, as against 1.5 million in February, growing 5.67 per cent against an overall growth of 3.91 per cent. “For BSNL, capacity has been the main problem and the March figures show that the recent equipment orders and installation have helped it create more capacity,” said Harit Shah, telecom analyst, Angel Broking.

New service providers have added to the momentum. Aircel has lined up nation-wide launches (it recently launched services in Delhi and Mumbai) and three or four new players are expected to launch services by the middle or end of this year. These include Swan Telecom, Unitech Wireless and Loop Telecom.

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