India’s GSM mobile user base is expected to exceed 200 million customers by 2007, according to the Cellular Operators’ Association of Inda (COAI). The country is currently home to around 40 million GSM subscribers, but the COAI agrees with operators and analysts who expect the total to leap to 80 million by the end of the year as cellcos rush to roll out further network infrastructure in rural areas, and slash tariffs in a bid to sign up new customers in a highly competitive market.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Communications, Dayanidhi Maran, made the first test 3G call in India at a mobile industry summit held yesterday, and declared that the country’s first 3G services will be rolled out in June. Wireless operators Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Bharti Tele-Ventures have all initiated pilot projects , but it is unclear which cellco will be the first to launch. Bharti, India’s largest mobile operator, revealed its plans for the rollout of 3G services earlier this month. It said it intends to launch a national UMTS network over the next 18 to 20 months and plans to invest around USD1 billion in upgrading its current infrastructure. The company expects to be in a position to launch 3G services twelve months after it gets approval and appropriate spectrum allocation from the regulator, the TRAI.