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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 16:23 GMT
India's mobile phone boom
Mobile phone users in India
More and more Indians have a mobile phone
Mobile phones are selling like wildfire in India, according to the latest figures which show the number of subscribers has shot up 75% in the past year.

Nearly 5.725m Indian people now have mobile phones, compared with just 3.27 million a year ago, data from the Cellular Operators Association of India shows.

But in a country the size of India, with a population of 1bn people, even the breakneck growth means only about one in two hundred people own a mobile, leaving plenty of room for future growth.

However, India's tough licensing regime means it can be tough for companies to make money.

Tough market

"There is no reason at all why India shouldn't sustain these growth rates," Mark Newman of Global Mobile magazine told the BBC's World Business Report.

The biggest increase has been seen in the four main city markets of Bombay, New Delhi, Madras and Calcutta.

New Delhi operator Bharti Cellular gained a further 31,000 customers during January alone.

"India proved a magnet for foreign investment five or six years ago, when the market was opened up," Global Mobile's Mark Newman said.

Interest in the market faded, partly as a result of the government's tough licensing process and its revenue sharing agreements.

The government has since relaxed some of those conditions.

"There are better opportunities from a short term profit perspective elsewhere. I think we may see some of the larger players come back into India but it is not going to be a gold rush," he added.

Mark Newman, Global Mobile
"It is cheaper to deploy a mobile phone line rather than a mobile phone line"
See also:

31 Oct 01 | Business
Indian telecoms sale confusion
28 Jun 01 | South Asia
India mobile giants merge
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