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Indian cell users to double by 2011

Cellphone users will cross the 300 mn mark by 2011, say industry experts.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2006 12:08 IST

With the arrival of third generation telephony and more penetration into rural areas, Indian mobile phone users are going to cross the 300 million mark by 2011 against the current 125 million, say industry leaders.

The mobile telephony trend the country is witnessing today portrays a contrasting image. On the one hand there is a huge rural and semi-rural mass waiting to be connected, while on the other one sees that to the chic and modern urban class, mobile phone is now more than just a device to stay connected.

"Indian mobile phone users can now compete with China's, so it is just a matter of time when India will be able to match or rather cross China. And owing to the exponential demand that we are experiencing both in terms of urban and rural market it is imperative for us to manufacture from here and stay near the market," Moon Bum Shin, LG's deputy managing director, told on the sidelines of the three-day Mobile Asia 2006 exhibition from October 13-16.

"Owing to the huge market there which is waiting to get connected India will soon cross the 300 subscriber million by 2011," added Shin.

In 2004 LG Electronics India Ltd (LGEIL) set up its first manufacturing facility in Pune, Maharashtra, over an area of 50 acres. It manufactures GSM phones along with other electrical appliances like colour televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, microwave ovens and colour monitors.

"In India currently the penetration level is 13 percent and the network that we have today covers only 42 percent of Indians while the remaining 58 percent is waiting for the basic connectivity requirements like talking and sms (short message service)," said HS Bhatia, national product group head of LG GSM mobile phones.

According to Bhatia, when the remaining 58 percent will be covered, the subscriber base is bound to increase in leaps and bounds.

Agrees Devinder Kishore, Nokia's marketing director, who affirms: "India is adding six million subscribers in a month, even when the penetration level is a meagre 13-14 percent. So the market is huge and hence the enormous growth potential."

"Also, with the arrival of third generation mobile devices, everyone would want to stay connected and updated."

Nokia's manufacturing unit came up in December last year in Chennai, which is also its export unit. The unit has already manufactured more than a million handsets till now.

Last month Communications and Information Technology Minister Dayanidhi Maran said that third generation (3G) telephony would be in India by the end of this year or early 2007.

"3G mobile devices will bring in more speed and it has more capacity to penetrate in the rural areas; however, pricing will be an issue," said Pankaj Mohindroo, national president of the Indian Cellular Association (ICA), a leading mobile industry body.

However, all leading mobile phone manufacturers are trying to bring in low cost 3G phones into the India market.

"We are planning to launch Rs 10,000 3G mobile phones in India as soon as we get the nod from the government," Bhatia averred.

Today mobile phones have evolved from being just a fashion statement to a product of mass consumption. For many Indians today mobile phones is a symbol of empowerment.

"Mobile phones are no more just phones now. These phones have now become entrepreneurial units," said Sutikshan Naithani, vice president, sales and marketing, Samsung India.

Elaborating his statement, Naithani added: "Today if one has to organise a party, we don't go to the caterers or decorators personally, we just call them in their mobiles and get the things done, so the phones are the only medium for these small and medium entrepreneurs to stay connected.

"Fashion statement, sign of empowerment, need to stay connected - a mobile phone no doubt plays a very significant role in every Indian's life today."