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India Adds Record 20 Million Mobile Subscribers in March

India added a record 20 million new mobile subscribers in March, as new operators cut tariffs to attract subscribers, according to data released Monday by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

India had 584.32 million subscribers at the end of March, which indicates that 49.6 percent of Indians have mobile connections, according to TRAI

The large number of new subscribers also reflects the roll out of services by newer operators, such as the Indian joint venture of Sistema. Still, most of the new subscribers came from the larger, established operators like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone Essar, the Indian joint venture of Vodafone, and Tata Teleservices.

However, some of the additions may have come not from new subscribers but from existing subscribers holding more than one SIM (subscriber identity module) card, as they try out the service and tariff packages of other operators, analysts said.

Indian mobile operators have dropped voice call rates to below 0.01 Indian rupees (US$0.0002) per second in a bid to gain market share, even as new entrants are rolling out services. These gains have come at the expense of lower average revenue per user and fewer calling minutes used by subscribers.

India's largest operator, Bharti Airtel had a 21.84 percent share of the market at the end of March, followed by Reliance Communications with 17.53 percent share, and Vodafone Essar with a 17.26 percent share, TRAI said.

Vodafone added 3.6 million new subscribers in March, while Bharti Airtel and Reliance added 3 million subscribers each.

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