LIFE

The swelling cellular brigade

The number of GSM cell phone users in the State has grown to 4.67 per cent of the total cellular users in the country, according to a study conducted by the Institute for Monitoring Economic Growth, an organisation based in the State capital.

In October 1997, the number of mobile users in the State comprised just 1.7 per cent of the total cell consumers in the country. In January 2004, the number of GSM users in the State stood at 10,91,126. When the two lakh-odd CDMA and WLL users too are added to the cellular consumers brigade, the total number of mobile users would be nearly 13 lakhs. This would mean that one in 24 persons in the State is a GSM/CDMA or WLL user, says the study

Mobile telephony came alive in the State with the entry of Escotel in April 1997, with 3,530 consumers. When BPL too entered the market in October, the number of subscribers went up to 11,535. The figure showed a steady rise, with the number of connections standing at 16,931 in January 1998, 41,935 in the same period next year, 85,215 in 2000, 2,65,321in 2001 and 3,55,257 in 2002.

In 2003, the total number of mobile users in the State was 5,75,414, of which, 5,15,712 subscribers belonged to the four GSM operators in the State, Escotel, BPL, BSNL and AirTel. Later in the year, a fifth operator, Reliance, too entered the market.

As of the figures in January 2004, the number of mobile users in the State is 10,91,126. Of this, BSNL alone accounts for 3,57,658 connections. BSNL used to be the top mobile service provider in the State till the end of last year. But with BSNL failing to provide adequate number of pre-paid SIM cards (Excel) in the market, in January this year, Escotel topped the chart with 3,62,352 connections.

BPL has 2,21,936 connections and AirTel, 1.49,180 connections. With BSNL aiming at an expansion in network capacity in the State by March, by another four lakh connections, it is expected to emerge once again as the top cellular provider. BSNL has a country-wide cell connection of 48 lakhs now and this is expected to go up to 63 lakhs after the expansion.

With this, the number of mobile users in the country will surpass the number of land phone users, with a mobile penetration of 5.2 per cent.

However, when compared to the mobile penetration figures in Europe (60 per cent) and in China (20 per cent), this is nothing, says the study.

By Maya C.

By C. Maya

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