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MTNL, BSNL get poor response to 3G - Sathish - 04-03-2009

Telecom firms hoping for a major shift by mobile customers to high-speed third generation (3G) services may be in for a disappointment. Between them, state-owned telecom companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), which offers telecom services in Mumbai and Delhi, have managed to rope in just 3,200-odd customers for their 3G services.

Two months after its commercial launch in February this year, MTNL has been able to get 200 to 300 subscribers for 3G services in Delhi. It will launch services in Mumbai only in May.

MTNL Chairman RSP Sinha said, "We have 200-300 customers and hoped to roll out all over Delhi in a few months. I can't say how many subscribers we will have, but by the end of the year should have 2,000 to 3,000."

BSNL has not done much better. It has managed to garner 3,000 customers in over 24 cities since a month of its commercial launch, said an official. That means it has, on an average, 125 customers in each city — which includes Agra, Ambala, Jalandhar, Jaipur, Dehradun, Shimla, Lucknow, Ranchi and Patna, among others. However, it claims it will be in 500 cities in the next three months.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had projected that as much as 10 per cent of the 375 million mobile customers would shift to 3G services in the first year of its launch in the country.

The two government-owned companies have notched up poor subscriber numbers despite the first-mover advantage given to them by the government to offer 3G services in December last year. Meanwhile, private players’ entry into 3G services has been delayed indefinitely over pricing controversies.

“There is so much competition in the Indian telecom industry that when the private operators get into 3G services, they will deploy very aggressive and competitive strategies,” said Harit Shah, telecom analyst with Angel Broking.