New Delhi: The legal
tangle involving the allotment of airwaves for second generation
(2G) telephony may top people's memory as far as this industry
goes in 2011. But it was also another year of huge growth that saw
subscriber base breach the 900-million mark.
For the world's second-largest telecommunications market, 2011 was
also about hopes of further policy changes, an enabling regime
that would allow spectrum sharing for 3G services, consolidation
and regulatory stability among other things.
"It's been a turbulent year," said Mahesh Uppal, a noted telecom
analyst and director of consultancy firm Com First India.
"Industry struggled with negative news. But the quality of service
improved and subscribers got the gift of portability," Uppal told
"It's not as if any of the negative issues has even remotely
affected user-experience of services. There was recognition across
the industry this year that the focus has to be on infrastructure,
consolidation and spectrum."
For the bulk of the year, focus was also on the charges against
former telecom minister A. Raja and 13 others in what has come to
be called the 2G case over the controversial allotment of scarce
airwaves to new players in 2008. But that did stop growth.
"The 2G case had a huge impact on industry. Investment from
industry fell, the domestic banks stopped lending and foreign
direct investment into the sector stopped because of uncertainty,"
said Rajan S. Mathews of the Cellular Operators Association.
"Regulatory initiatives like the mobile number portability and
dealing with issues such as pesky calls also put additional cost
burden on the operators. But overall subscriber count grew, which
was good news," Mathews added.
As per latest data with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI),
the total number of telecom subscribers in India crossed 914
million on Oct 31 and tele-density increased to 76.03 percent from
787 million in December with tele-density of 66.16 percent.
Jaideep Ghosh, director with KPMG advisory, also said that despite
some shortcomings in areas like infrastructure, the industry saw a
positive outcome in terms of both tele-density and
"Though the infrastructure for many services is still being rolled
out, the devices we had in the year, complemented by low-cost
tablets, were a huge thing to be recognised," he said, hoping for
better times ahead, including a recast National Telecom Policy.
Added Mathews: "I am sure the industry will be back on track in
2012. But for that, there must be more clarity on certain issues
like re-licensing norms, pricing of spectrum, availability of
additional spectrum. All this will give a further boost to
Key developments in telecom during 2011
Pan-India mobile number portability launched, but mere two
percent opted for this service.
Former telecom minister A. Raja, along with his DMK party
colleague and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi and 12 others taken into
custody in the 2G case. Some were later granted bail.
Leading telecom operator Bharti Airtel announced a 20-25 percent
hike in its tariffs in selected regions; others followed suit.
To bar pesky calls, a National Customer Preference Registry came
into force, bringing some relief.
India's $35 tablet computer "Aakash" unveiled even such launches
Draft National Telecom Policy unveiled, proposing
spectrum-sharing, free roaming and easy mergers.
Sharing of 3G spectrum banned as industry appeals to Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh.
Communications Minister Kapil Sibal moves to regulate content in
social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Prime Minister assures stakeholders that industry woes will be
(Priyanka Sahay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com)