The number of people using mobile phones in India reached 14.17 million by the start of June, more than double the figure recorded in May 2002, according to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). In May the industry recorded 840,757 net additions over the previous month, an increase of close to 30%. In a country with a population of over a billion, however, the addition is little more than a drop in the ocean, raising cellular penetration to just 1.38%. The obvious growth potential of the sector, which is expected to reach 120 million users by 2008, has prompted a host of telecoms operators to invest in India, and 2002 witnessed both the launch of new players and the expansion of coverage by existing operators. The principal operators include SingTel-backed Bharti Televentures, state-owned telecoms behemoth Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Hutchison Whampoa’s local presence Hutchison Telecom. However, the likes of Idea Cellular – backed by AT&T Wireless, the Tata Group and the Birla conglomerate – Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and BPL Communications are intent on increasing the pressure in an increasingly busy market.
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