India's Mobile Market Is Growing Despite Economic Slowdown

India's mobile phone market continues to be unaffected by the economic slowdown, with 11.9 million new mobile subscribers in April. That's a 45 percent greater increase than in the same month last year, according to data released Monday by India's Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The mobile market has not been affected so far by the economic slowdown, as Indian consumers see communications as a necessity, said Kapil Dev Singh, country manager at analyst IDC India.

The mobile subscriber additions in April were however lower than the 15.64 million new connections in March, something the telecom regulator regards as a seasonal drop.

In India, the monthly data is closely watched for signs of an impact of the economic slowdown on India's booming mobile market.

The slowdown between March and April is seasonal, and does not reflect an overall slowdown in the mobile business in the country, a TRAI official said Tuesday.

As the Indian fiscal year ends in March, mobile service operators offer deep discounts and are more aggressive in their marketing in March, the official said.

"There have been drops from month-to-month previously, so the drop in April is more likely to be seasonal," IDC's Singh said.

The new additions in April this year helped take the total number of mobile subscribers in India to 404 million.

India's largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel added 2.8 million new mobile subscribers in April, taking its total subscribers to 96.74 million, while state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) added about 1 million new subscribers to have a subscriber base of 53.17 million at the end of the year.

Reliance Communications, India's second largest mobile operator, added 2 million new customers in April, compared to 3 million additions in March. The company saw high additions in the first quarter as it rolled out its new GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network in addition to its existing service using CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).

The number of mobile subscribers in the country is expected to increase as mobile operators target rural towns and villages. The auction of 3G licenses, now rescheduled for the end of this year after a number of postponements, is also expected to give this market a fillip.

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