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Telecom in India

India's 21.59 million-line telephone network is the largest in Asia, 3rd largest among emerging economies (after China and Republic of Korea) and the 12th largest in the world. India's telecom network comprises of 27,753 telephone exchanges, with a total equipped capacity of 272.17 Lakh lines and 226.3 Lakh working telephones. The Long Distance Transmission Network has nearly 1,70,000 route kilometers of terrestrial Microwave Radio Relay & Co-axial cables and about 171,000 route kilometers of Optical Fiber Cables. Fully automatic International Subscriber Dialing (ISD) service is available to almost all the countries. The total number of stations connected to National Subscriber Dialing (NSD) is over 18,000 and this is increasing fast. Yet the present tele-density is very low at about 2.2 per hundred persons, offering a vast scope for growth. In the field of International communications, tremendous progress was made by the use of Satellite Communication and submarine links.It is therefore not surprising that India has one of the fastest growing telecommunication systems in the world with system size (total connections) growing at an average of more than 20 percent over the last 4 years.

The voice and non-voice telecom services include data transmission, facsimile, mobile radio, radio paging, V-SAT and leased line services to cater to variety of needs, both residential and business. A dedicated Packet Switched Public Data Network (I-NET) with international access for computer communication services is also available. ISDN service has already been introduced in the major cities. Other services like Intelligent Network (IN), Frame Relay (FR) and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) for wide band multimedia applications will be introduced in the near future.

In the field of international communications, India's overseas service carrier Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (VSNL) has made tremendous progress by using extensive infrastructure of satellite earth stations, state-of-the-art digital gateways, Optical Fiber Multi Media submarine Cables and Multi Media Data Switches. Fully automatic international subscriber dialing (ISD) service is provided to almost all the countries in the world. In future, VSNL is positioning itself to provide bandwidth on demand, Global Virtual Private Networks, ISDN, B-ISDN, VSATs, Mini-M and hand held Personal Communications.

The telecommunications initiative in the country is led by Ministry of Communications through the Department of Telecommunication & Department Telecom Services and its undertakings for provision of basic telephone services, national and international long distance communications, manufacture of complete range of telecom equipment, research and development, and consultancy services. The Telecom Commission performs the Executive and Policy making functions. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India performs the functions of an independent regulatory body.

Services Offered
  • Telephone Services
  • NSD/ISD Services
  • Computerized Trunk Services
  • Pay Phones
  • National & International Leased Lines Circuits
  • Telex
  • Telegraph Services (Manual & Automatic)
  • X-25 based Packet Switched Data Network (INET)
  • Gateway Packet Switched Data Services (GPSS)
  • Gateway Electronic Data Interchange Service (GEDIS)
  • Gateway E-Mail and Store & Forward FAX Service (GEMS-400)
  • Concert Packet Service (CPS)
  • Satellite-based Remote Area Business Message Network
  • Electronic Mail
  • Voice Mail
  • Audio-Text
  • Radio Paging
  • Cellular Mobile Telephone
  • Public Mobile Radio Trunked Service
  • Video-Tex
  • Video Conferencing
  • V-SAT
  • Internet
  • ISDN
  • INMARSAT Mobile Service
  • INMARSAT Data Service
  • Home Country Direct Service
  • Intelligent Network (IN) Services
Cellular and Paging Services
Cellular and paging services though not a very old means of communication in India has very rapidly caught the imagination of the people. The revolution that started with pagers soon gave way to Mobile phones. Pagers being one way and with limited application have almost disappeared, as mobiles became the favorite. With more and more innovative offers like prepaid cards from telecom service operators, the mobile culture is growing. With more players entering the market, the competition has grown stronger, catering to the demands of consumers. Hutch, Airtel, Idea and Reliance are doing very well and are always coming up with new schemes and plans.SMS is a raging favorite among both the young and the old. A shift towards mobile telephony is apparent from the fact that the share of cellular connections in new connections is steadily going up and had reached 63% in December 2002.

Cell phones now come cheaper and so does the monthly bill. As a result one can still hear some grudges from service providers as they claim lack of use of enough airtime to make it a profitable business.

Today, India has 22 private companies providing cellular services in 18 telecom circles and 4 metro cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta). Ever since their introduction, cellular services have shown a fair growth with the subscriber base crossing the 1 million mark by the first quarter of 1999.India has adopted the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) for provision of cellular services. The cellular services in India operate in the frequency band 890-902.5 MHz / 935-947.5 MHz. In metro cities, each operator has been allocated a frequency spectrum of 6.2+6.2 MHz (except Chennai where 5.8+5.8 MHz spectrum has been allocated), while for other telecom circles a spectrum of 4.4 +4.4 MHz has been allocated.

Cellular Mobile Telephone Service Providers
  • Bharti Cellular Ltd
  • Sterling Cellular Ltd
  • BPL Mobile Communications Ltd
  • Hutchison Max Telecom Ltd
  • Modi Telstra Pvt. Ltd
  • Usha Martin Telekom Ltd
  • RPG Cellular Seravices Ltd
  • Skycell Communications Pvt. Ltd
  • Airtel Digilink India Ltd
  • Fascel Ltd
  • Hexacom India Ltd
  • JT Mobiles Ltd
  • Koshika Telecom Pvt. Ltd
  • Tata Communications Pvt. Ltd
  • Escotel Mobile Comm. Pvt. Ltd
  • Bharti Telenet Ltd
  • RPG Cellcom Ltd
  • Modicom Network Pvt. Ltd
  • Birla AT&T Comm. Ltd
  • Reliance Telecom Ltd
  • BPL Cellular Ltd
  • Srinivas Cellcom Ltd
Letters and Telegrams
Letters have been written from ages and the Indian Postal service is one of the biggest and most experienced services. About 90% of the postal outlets are in rural India. On an average a post office covers an area of about 21 sq. km and a population of about 6,600 people. The Indian postal system currently provides 38 services which can be categorized as

  • Communication: letters, postcards, newspapers
  • Transportation: parcels, money orders etc.
  • Other services: resource mobilization, postal life insurance
For providing postal services, the whole country has been divided into twenty-two postal circles. Each Circle is coterminous with a State except for some. Besides these twenty-two circles, there is another circle, called Base Circle, to cater to the postal communication needs of the Armed Forces.

Telecommunication infrastructure was established in India in 1856. They were telegraphic data communication links principally for government and military use. Telegrams being the fastest means of communication in areas where phone lines did not reach, led to its use by the common man. Even now phone lines do not connect many interior regions of India and the telegram is used to fill in the gap. However it is a fast disappearing means of communication, as connectivity in India both in terms of telephone lines and wireless communication has rapidly grown.

Courier Services
Time was when one had to wait for weeks together to see the other person receive important document. The common man had no access to fax machines nor was he aware of it's utility. Then came along the speed post, which too took about a week to deliver. The start of private courier services however changed all that. Documents could now reach within the day or by the next day. Moreover they are more reliable as chances of misplacement are minimal. Today businesses as well as individuals are increasingly dependant on the courier service.

Internet
Once the Internet market space was opened up to private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in 1998, the market has witnessed phenomenal growth. In certain states there has been a high percentage in penetration, but in others it has been slow due to low telecom penetration, low bandwidth and above all illiteracy. All tourist spots however are more or less connected to the net. Cyber cafes are as common a sight as telephone booths and connectivity in India has arrived for the common man. One need no longer invest in a computer, which is still a costly commodity. Though email and Internet browsing remain the favorite purposes e-commerce and e-business have put their foot in. Banks have now facilitated Internet banking. The Indian Railways offers a computerized reservation system which enables a person to book his tickets online and from anywhere. It also provides other services like railway timetables and ticket availability. Airlines bookings, Movie ticket bookings, hospital appointments and even consultations are widely available. Connectivity is fast spreading in all areas and the Internet is becoming more and more user friendly. Facilities in connectivity are easily available even though not a very high percentage of Indians use these facilities.

The good news is that with improvements in bandwidth and penetration of Internet through PCs as well as cable TV, the Internet user base in India will expand by leaps and bounds. The cable route in fact is being touted as a significant pathway for the proliferation of the Internet in India. India already boasts of 37 million cable connections (expected to jump to 100 million by 2008), which could additionally be converted into Internet connections. Thanks to the wireless application protocol (WAP), Internet is coming to India through mobile phones as well. Voice over IP, a dream so far for India, too is expected to be reality in the future.

Transportation in India