Telecom Lead India: Reportlinker has identified several challenges that affect its forecast of reaching 1 billion mobile subscriptions in 2012 from 894 million last year.
While fixed broadband will grow from 13.3 million to 15 million in 2012, fixed line is forecast to decrease to 31 million in 2012 from 32.7 million last year.
India’s massive mobile market entered a period of uncertainty in 2012. Reportlinker said India’s mobile sector finds itself in period of major uncertainty as 2G re-auction approaches whilst maintaining its ranking as one of the two largest telecom markets in the world.
A number of factors have contributed to this uncertainty which in turn was set to see some changes in the marketplace. The Supreme Court decision in February 2012 that resulted in the large scale cancellation of operator licences and the subsequent responses of the regulators to the court orders saw an increasingly nervous market.
Indeed, the unfolding impact of the 2G scandal was looking grim for the mobile industry, with some operators either exiting or considering exiting the market. After a number of delays, the all-important re-auctioning of the cancelled 2G mobile licences had been set for late in 2012.
By mid-2012, there had also been another form of shake out in the mobile subscriber market as operators culled inactive prepaid subscribers from their customer bases; this process had caused a dislocation in the subscriber statistics and it was evident that the market would need time to settle.
Despite the difficulties, overall growth in the national subscriber base was expected to continue at a still strong rate. The mobile sector had passed the 900 million subscriber mark by early 2012 from 10 million subscribers in 2002.
While the mobile subscriber base witnessed growth of around 20 percent annually coming into 2012, Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) had been steadily declining as competing operators offered cheaper tariffs; at the same time usage levels have remained reasonably high thus slowing the decline in revenues.
There has been a major push in recent years to take mobile services into the poorer and rural areas of the country; this has also weighed heavily on ARPUs. But countering this trend, the long-awaited 3G licensing has seen networks across the country delivering mobile data services to customers.
Although still struggling with coverage issues, 3G was finally starting to help operators boost revenue. In 2012 there were signs that the decline in ARPU was ‘bottoming out’ and some operators were reporting increased ARPUs.
In the meantime, the fixed-line market, which had grown strongly for a while, began experiencing zero and then negative growth. Fixed-line subscriber numbers stood at just over 30 million by early 2012. With less than 3 percent fixed-line penetration, India has nevertheless achieved a remarkable national coverage, with 98 percent of the population having some form of access to a telephone.
In terms of online access, there has been a fresh effort by the government to promote broadband internet throughout the country; after a period in which broadband development languished, there was new hope for a serious expansion phase in this segment of the market.
By mid-2012 there were around 14 million fixed broadband subscribers – a lowly penetration (by population) of slightly more than 1 percent. Meanwhile, the impact of mobile broadband was finally starting to filter through the market and in the medium term this was expected to lift broadband penetration significantly.